December 2016 Tracking

December 2016 Tracking Report

I wanted to put together a Net Worth Tracking report but did not really know the best process or layout. Then I remembered that there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path, so I was excited to start with the most basic layout possible. It will be great to see how these reports evolve along with (hopefully) my financial knowledge.

 

December was an interesting month in a lot of ways. I have only been tracking my financials for a few short months as I got pushed into fiscal overdrive mode by credit card debt in attached to a company education reimbursement. I just do not do well with any debt, and it all just seemed to spiral and caused me to feel very hectic. Even though it was good debt for education that was getting reimbursed tax free, I just did not have a solid enough picture of my finances that it just caused undue stress. In December there was the personal victory of finally getting the reimbursement and clearing the debt on the final day of the year, but also the failure of one of the most abysmal months at work commission wise. I was not sure I wanted this to be my first month, but I thought that it would be a fun view into a spendy New York City month to compare to No Spend January 17 next!

 

Transactions

 

Bills – $5,007

Starting off with the painful stuff first. Finally was able to pay off the course I had on my credit card for the past three months as my reimbursement came through. This gets my debt back down to a level that I can understand and more easily track without getting stuck in the weeds.

 

Birthday – $395

I celebrated my 28th birthday this past month and it was a blast. It was pretty lavish as my girlfriend got us a helicopter tour of NYC that had some hidden fees and eating at the best vegan place in town with my family is always a good way to celebrate. I generally never celebrate my birthday so this is an acceptable splurge. If you get the chance – Helicopter NYC – you won’t regret it.

 

Eating Out: $285

Any food not cooked at home goes here. My company actually covers a few breakfast staples and lunches twice a week. I do spend and eat out the rest of the time because I feel ahead. This is one budget that needs to be slashed in the coming year. I love NYC food, but this is of the same boring meals each day. Not bringing me optimal happiness so it must go.

 

Groceries – $158

I never fault myself a large grocery bill because it’s the cheapest route you can go. I had a lot left over from the previous month and we ate with our families for most of the holiday week, so this will likely go up next year. I would rather overspend on groceries any day as the alternative is ordering overpriced delivery. This is a category I hope to increase in the coming year as it would make other categories like snacks and eating out shrink!

 

Gifts – $1,100

The bane of my year. I had 5 weddings this year and had to travel to most of them. Between accommodations, gifts, clothes, peripheral events- I likely spent $6-7,000 on weddings this past year. I have five more weddings this year and I expect to gal my way through them as cheaply as possible. Christmas was somewhat light this year as I manage to convince more and more of my family to do no gifts. No gifts still was roughly ten gifts and it caused me no end of stress. I am going to aim to get my presents online by the final week of November this upcoming year to spare myself.

 

Health – $470

Another oversized category for this month- I had a long delayed doctors appointment to get my foot fixed. I have some of the flattest feet you have ever seen, and this was only recently fixed with a pair of $350 Orthotic custom insoles. The difference is so night and day I would have paid triple to have been smart enough to do it even a few months earlier. Prior to these insoles I was hobbling around like an old man at age 27. Other costs included protein and pre-workout for the gym. Buying bulk orders of Pre-workout allows this to not be that regular of a purchase and still gives me the juice I need to pump some iron after working 12 hour days.

 

Business – $72

Small monthly costs associated with running test advertising campaigns and websites. I fully expect this to ramp up to be a large monthly expense as I become more comfortable and spend more time with my system.

 

Entertainment – $30

In a month of spending on others, I did buy myself one. Overwatch is one of the more popular first person shooters out these days, and it was recommended to me by a friend who recently got back into gaming. As a way to reconnect, I bought this during its Christmas sale even though I have plenty of games already. Worth it purely for the camaraderie of playing with old friends, the game itself is pretty meh.

 

Home – $87

This will need to be organized better in the future but this category currently covers an extravagant dry cleaners session in which I cleaned every suit I own to look fresh in the new year. More importantly this is where we budget the feed for the two starving Philadelphia street cats that keep me awake at all hours of the night.

 

Invest – $831

I have two auto transfers set direct into my money market account along with 4 auto transfers into cash savings. I have been doing the cash transfers for years, I swear by Capital One 360. For vanguard drafts though, this is a relatively new system and I can’t accurately gauge how much I like it. The way I do mass manual transfers conflicts with this at times. It may be a method that just doesn’t jive well with variable pay. I set this up for months with minimal earning as it mandates saving and figuring life out after paying myself.

 

Snacks – $88

This is a category I absolutely detest. My girlfriend and I have a large appetite for non-meal goodies. I can cook till we look like hippos – we will still be craving plantain chips and candy at 11 pm. The saving grace is that most times I’m buying snacks is times where the alternate possibility would be us going out and spending ten times the amount at a bar. I have supported way too many deli’s with this category over the past few years, 2017 is the end of it.

 

Transit – $198

I did the math poorly on my transit card for the year as generally my commutes are covered out of my paycheck on a pre-tax basis for some minor savings. Instead I had to Credit Card them for the month and technically get it all for free with the Chase Sapphire Reserve ravel credit. I cover most commuting costs for myself and my girlfriend happily; at my previous job I used to drive 90 miles each way in a gas guzzling Ford Explorer. Anything less costly is a win in my book. I used Uber this month generally only to get to and from my car parked in a nearby town with better street parking. I used the Charger sparingly and did not need to fill up. It has been stored at my fathers for the foreseeable future.

 

Vice – $735

December and the holidays in general is a difficult time for partying. Living in NYC and paying for drinks for two tends to put a decent dent in this category each month. I do feel very fortunate to be in the position I currently am, so instead of giving to charity I will often take care of friends and pay when we go out for a night. The kind deed is often reciprocated but this may be something that can be pared back. Partying New Years Eve away at 100$ a ticket doesn’t help either!

 

Total Spend – $3,544

 

Payday – $10,081

Between commission, hourly, and tuition reimbursement I made roughly 10k. Reasonable end of the year as it pushed me to a career high and allowed me to clear out my Credit Card debt with  a few hours left on the clock.

 

401k

I had previously maxed this out in November and as such said goodbye to my 401k till the new year. Unfortunately my provider has since switched to two step verification. Good for security – bad for Mint and Personal Capital. I guess we are going back to the days of manual tracking once a month.

 

ESPP

15% Net Pay – $600

I have a very generous employee stock purchase program in which I can put up to 15% of my net pay. Every six months they purchase company shares at a 15% discount and I immediately sell off. While I was lucky to see an IPO on my first startup, the stock has taken a beating since and I already am over exposed by having most of my income solely from this one company. So while others have mistakenly held each time, I have sold and reaped the benefits, while relying on strong yearly performance to earn bonuses gifted in slowly vesting RSU’s and shares.

 

Assets and Liabilities Breakdown

 

A

Cash – $1,740+$2,485 Emergency Fund

401k = $57,500

IRAs= $20,700

Vanguard $195,000

Company Stock and RSU – $20,100

Rental Property – $36,400

Car – $7,000

 

Total – $341,000

 

L

Mortgage – None

Student Loans – $4,500

Car Loan – Done

Chase –  $511

Amex – $126

 

Total – $5,137

 

NW – $336,000

 

$11,000 + from previous tracked month

 

All in all a pretty good month thanks in no small part to the Trump Bull run going on in the market. Spending was pretty lavish across the board and this gives me a good comparison report to hopefully look back and grin at!

Much of my savings is thanks in large part to auto transfers prior to even receiving my paycheck. At work people cannot fathom how I manage to put so much money away and when I explain the simplicity they deem it impossible for them, even though I am proof. In 2016 I put 12% of gross into 401k and 15% of the net after that towards my ESPP. Once I received my payday I lived off as little as possible and threw every spare dime into the brokerage that I could. So while it was possibly painful to live below my means, I didn’t notice it too much.

Stoicism and FIRE

Stoicism and FIRE – a Perfect Match

For some time now I have been a follower of the Stoic philosophy of life. I generally do not label myself and do not go to extremes in anything, so I do not call myself a Stoic out loud ever or even mentally. However so much of my personal mindset was already in line with the way of living that slowly I have practiced and read and I feel like it has had an extremely positive impact on my life.

 

I want to be clear that I understand this is likely an egregious oversimplification of Stoicism, mainly in that money is not a driving force of the philosophy. Also as I am an amateur, my understanding of the source material may be wrong. I have adopted what I have learned for my personal situation and use so I most likely do not care. However there is so much crossover, and I personally have found so much utility in both, that I thought it at least worth mentioning some of the parallels. I encourage you to study and read more of both subjects to make your own judgement.

 

Main Tactics of Practicing Modern Day Stoicism

 

Negative Visualization

This is the easiest place the similarities begin. Mainly the first step any person is told in the financial independence community is to build up an Emergency fund. There are caveats like reaching 401k matches and pay yourself first and so on but really every person needs to be able to cover basic living expenses for at least a few months of no income. You need to plan ahead and think about the possible negatives that can occur. One of the important pillars of Stoicism is that of reflection on the fact that things could be worse. By constantly thinking and reminding ourselves of the inverse of anything good in our lives, we appreciate them incalculably more. Negative visualization is planning ahead for the one real constant in life, change.

 

Lens of Control

Stoicism teaches us to relax our minds by paying attention to the three circles of control. We should focus most of our attention on things that we can actively effect, less so on those we have less control over, and little to no focus on that which we can’t control. FIRE adherents are HUGE on this. We all know that it takes someone with a large ego to think they can stock pick and market time their way to independence. It for sure has happened but that is not an effective long term plan. Instead, we set up our auto investment plans and then focus on enjoying life or whatever we so wish to focus on.

 

Fatalism

Death and taxes. That is all that is certain. The FIRE enthusiasts I know are ones that know that life is dwindling away in our hands. The seriousness of life seems more pronounced here as these are people that have the feeling that they are not finding fulfillment with the standard work situation that the rest of people seem to be  okay with. Being cognizant of how much time you have left and how much value you place on your time makes life choices much clearer.

 

Self Denial

Financial Independence as a mindset is built on self denial. One of the pillars of the lifestyle is delayed gratification. By denying our search and access of pleasures or putting them off for lengths of time, we give our future selves both mental and financial power. Financially we avoid frivolous purchasing and allow our hard earned money to grow and compound for future growth. Mentally we become stronger as we control the urges of the consumer mindset. We see what really is important to us, what is a need versus a want.

 

Meditation

Conscious reflection and conscious spending go hand in hand. Both Financial Independence and Stoicism are about making purposeful choices, purposeful action. Frivolity and waste are simply not in line with the ideological principles of either thought framework. In FIRE you determine what you really need to survive and what actually brings you happiness relative to its monetary value. With Stoic meditation, we reflect back on the choices we have made recently to see how they have affected our mind and emotions. Being aware of how your actions impact both your mind and wallet allows you to parse what will be worthy of your focus.

Poor Persons Penthouse

Poor Person Penthouse

In early 2016 I moved into my second post-college apartment with my girlfriend. My initial apartment was a $700 a month closet-sized room that I split with an unbearable Craigslist stranger for some time, but we were getting serious so it was time to consolidate. We chose her place to ascend five floors daily for a $1,000 a month 5th floor walk-up. We have been living here for almost a year and I cannot imagine living somewhere other than what I call our Poor Persons Penthouse. Small as hell, but all we need, I sit most of my nights typing away in 380 sq ft of palatial living 50 feet above the ground.

 

Being on the top floor of a walk-up certainly took some getting used to but these days I never complain at all. First of all, it is obviously impossible to hate due to the price. Now to be fair we are outside of NYC proper but I have a small view of the top of the Empire State Building and I am 20 minutes from work. Paying $500 a month for a comfortable apartment is amazing in almost any location, ten times more so in NYC. I get a sick and twisted joy out of telling everyone my rent and watching them blanch and reconsider their life choices to spend $2,200 for a shoebox on the Upper East Side. In other cities this may be considered tacky but in NYC this is a right of passage.

Even though I am well compensated and there are two of us contributing to the bills, we have more space than we know what to do with. Our living room generally gets little use as it is a railroad style and has no windows.This is heartening for me to note that we could survive together in a studio if we ever wanted to indulge and move into a luxury building in the city to splurge one year. The problem for me is that having always spent so little, I can not even fathom what it would be like to have a large mortgage or rent bill. This pegs me into a bit of a corner as moving would require me to step out of my comfort zone, so I am trying to hold on to this place as long as I can. Being above everyone else in the building is fantastic. It makes me feel like a crotchety old hermit at the top of the stairs. Above the noise and the community of being sandwiched between people on the lower floors, it is just us and the birds up here. The hallway is never visited except by people that live up here, and it is likely safer as strangers should be too lazy or cautious to walk past 4 other floors of people and witnesses in the hopes of easy pickings at the top. Being at the top allows more freedom in leaving things out at the top of the hallway as well as easy roof access for suntanning in the nice weather. From the roof I have a fantastic view of much of Midtown, as long as you don’t mind walking on old tar paper! The view from all of the windows in general is so much better than the first or second floor as your have real privacy from the street.

 

On the other hand, If it needs to be pointed out – you’re gunna do some climbing. If you are averse to physical discomfort you may have a problem. You need to disconnect from the thoughts of stairs if you cannot embrace your inner stoic. I tend to grab my mail and give way to much attention to sorting to even notice the burn. It pays to be very organized in these apartments and not a person prone to rushing. Leaving something in the apartment or not being positive of the door being locked is really a special kind of agony. It is definitely solitary up on the upper floor. If you like community living, no one is climbing up to your perch very willingly. Friends and potential visitors will actively avoid coming if at all possible. This is nice if you want an easy reason to not entertain, just place the blame on others. I have a friend in a similar penthouse that has had massive issues with a leaking roof and absentee landlord. I have had no such issues so your milage may vary. Moving is an amusing situation in any apartment, it just becomes that much more aggressive with five flights of stairs. Obviously it is important to account for the size of objects and their rotational fitting – ness for the stairwells. I will be clear that in my move I completely abandoned one couch because it was too big to lift by myself and I am against talking to strangers. I did a gradual move in over a period of a few weeks to make it easy on myself, So plan out effective moves and keep belongings light and maneuverable!

I quickly got used to the stairs and really do not mind the extra free workout I get each day. I have taken the Stoic route as much as possible and welcome the leg workout as a man with notorious difficulty gaining calf muscle. I try to avoid inflicting my voluntary sacrifice on strangers, trying to be cognizant of other people’s lives. I generally will meet most delivery people at least halfway if not more. I do get delivery groceries but that as well I assist with because the company tends to send small females as handlers – I think for this exact reason. This also gives at least some measure of control in a delivery situation, even if the tip is already on the credit card, if the delivery was slow you can make them climb all the way up. Evil laugh the entire time.

 

The one major headache that this penthouse has given me is that it is too good of a deal. Knock on wood – I would hate to lose it so I do not even like talking about it too much. 500$  month for one of the most desirable zip codes in America is so unheard of people literally dislike me because I pay so little. I am at a stage in my life where I have friends buying primary residences and doing projects on homes. I want that. I am not a member of the cult of home ownership at all, but I do like the accelerating powers of leverage through landlording and real estate investing and the impact it can have on Net worth. The real estate market has blown up in the area we bought our first property, a 3 family that we slowly renovated in a suburb of Manhattan. I would like to pick up a second in the area and have been trying for the past 6 months. These days it is difficult to find a strong cash flowing deal because the word is out and people have cash available. The market is back up beyond 2008 pricing and each unit is going for 150-200k a piece when they need to be at 100-150k to be worth anything in a portfolio. The taxes are too outrageous to cash flow otherwise as the rents have not caught up with valuations at all. Either owner occupiers are moving in and getting fleeced or people are speculating on the appreciation to keep rolling.

This lack of good investment properties has me itching to try to jump into a foreclosure Live and Flip type situation. I would pursue a smaller duplex without my partners and slowly work on a property at my leisure. Sweat equity is my type of deal, and it is a great way to learn valuable life skills and get some exercise while I am young. It is just so difficult justifying a move when everything is so amazing with my current situation!

 

 

 

 

Virtual Reality and the Future of Financial Independence

Virtual Reality and the Future of Financial Independence

When I was growing up I never really asked for much. I was a simple and relatively mute child who wanted nothing more than to read books and be left alone. Friends were constantly getting the newest and best video game systems each year for Christmas or Birthdays, I always got them a few years later and never minded much. I eventually grew to become a heavy gamer, making money on the side in small tournaments mainly using hand me down computers or other friends consoles. This is all well and good until I heard that Virtual Reality was being pushed out in 2016 for early adopters either with the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift. This year I decided to fulfill my childhood wish of buying my very own Gaming PC for the very first time and be one of the first to regularly explore the possibilities of the new medium.

I went a bit overboard. For someone on the path to Financial Independence with a 50% + savings rate – I will survive. I purchased a Oculus Bundle pack from Best Buy and went with a Middle Range package for about $2,200. This did not include monitors which I needed for my work a home setup, so after grabbing a pair of the cheapest monitors and a mount – virtual reality cost about $2,500 to get into it. There are for sure cheaper options out there such as the Cardboard or the Gear, but I had been planning to see how I could possibly research business ideas in the realm, and I needed a Desktop as a Media Center anyway, so I bit the bullet on my first ever computer. I try not to hate on myself too much, as the VR aspect was really only $600. I just wanted a strong computer for streaming movies and music to last me the next 5 years anyway.

https://www3.oculus.com/en-us/oculus-ready-pcs/

Virtual Reality is crazy. There really is no words that do it justice due to the sheer immersiveness. It is one of those things that everyone will judge and call stupid until it’s on their face for about 5 seconds. I have seen peoples feelings on the tech and its use change within moments of trying it. The depth is truly fantastic. The number of experiences and everything is somewhat limited now, the number of people that currently are on these devices is limited so the larger budget stuff is yet to come. However you can see people hacking away, creating entire world spaces that will soon become the next most popular thing.

While this could be considered an extreme splurge it can also be considered  huge savings feature. With the Oculus, you could easily stave off desires of wanting to spend money on an expensive Parisian vacation. Earlier this morning I woke up in my bed in NYC, put on my goggles and was having a face to face conversation with the avatar of a friend that lives in Philadelphia. The cartoonish avatars will soon give way to photorealistic ones, but that is not a huge focus as we sit and converse on a rooftop cafe with the most perfect view of the Eiffel Tower you could imagine. Once that got boring we switched the scenery over to a plush mid-century red velvet movie theater and streamed some of our latest Overwatch matches on a 40 foot screen while sitting next to each other talking. Their is starting to become less and less of a need for people to be in the same physical location, we can hang out extremely well and keep our friendship thriving across a number of digital media. The amount of possibilities seems endless when you consider that this is just the start.

Many of the games are low budget and kitschy for a silly price – anywhere from $10 to $40 these days. I have not wasted my money with too many full budget games as they seem to be similar to iPhone games, all flash and no substance. As the platform matures and the market grows, real game studios will spend real money and rapid advancement will take place. For now, I aim at the most replayable games or the free and inexpensive experience and social apps. Many things are offered at no charge purely to get people using the product, and the social networks are so interesting and fun to show new users. Sending someone into a random room filled with the avatars of 20 VR nerds dispersed throughout the world is amazing for conversation.

One of the most amazing things that always comes to my mind is the way V changes your perspective. We are so used to dealing with digital media on a flat panel screen, life is very predictable in that regard. VR has no rules in that nature, and developers are running wild with it. There are mini movie scenes where you have rolling perspective tunneling through the scene, a tinker toy story where you fly above and through buildings by turning your head and body. There is no parallel to the way that we currently live, we do not process information this way yet. It is going to be amazing to see what sort of effect this technology has on our culture and society.

Something that has yet to come out yet is some sort of VR Financial tools. I am sure the early stage nature of it has security gaps a mile wide, but I cannot wait to see what comes out. Imagine Mint or Personal Capital in Virtual Reality? Between Zillow and Google Street View, we should be able to get digital renders of our own homes and do remodel planning with 3d wireframing. We could see our money in literal piles of whatever currency we like, be that cash or diamonds or a pool of gold coins! Being able to physically travel through your own financial  world will again give us entirely new perspectives on our money. The boat of your wealth may need some additional shoring up of risk-less assets given current market conditions, but you wouldn’t have known till the data was visualized in these new ways.

There are some cons to the current system, things aren’t fully there yet. The original iPod was not the be all and end all, nor will be the 2016 Oculus or Vive. They do set a great platform that people can work on though. The text resolution when reading through the goggles will make your eyeballs sizzle out of your head, something that will take time and tech. Wireless and weightless headsets will end up being as ubiquitous and likely combined with sunglasses. What looks like a frivolous electronic gizmo this year, will play a huge part in our lives in just a few years. Between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, the benefits to the tech are too numerous. I wanted to get ahead of the tech curve and be in the know as early as possible about this one, hopefully to figure out a way to share my love of the future with the world!

 

Work Hard Play Hard

Money Music Monday #5

 

For this MMM I thought we would switch it up to an older techno hit.

At this point in my life I am currently accomplishing half of this song. This year is all about working harder to party hard later on.

Not so much partying physically, more of a mental party but you know what I mean.

 

 

Long Term Goals

Long Term Goal Planning

I love the freedom that this mindset gives. My monthly outlays are so low that I could do most any job and still easily support my standard of living. Half if not more of every dollar I earn currently goes towards savings and investments and I hope to continue to grow that savings rate further.

Currently I live in New York City with my girlfriend and two cats. We work six days a week and love most every minute of it. I am in a highly competitive tech sales field and she works double duty in books and fitness. We have kept a pretty heavy pacing of work over the past two years and do not see an end in sight, but I know change is always coming. I often think about how people at the New Years are planning the next year. In reality we already know what that is generally going to look like very often because it is extremely close! We have planned vacations or dates, life events are planned months in advance. We don’t have time to take a long view because it creeps up on you very quickly.

I would prefer to take the New Year to reassess my five year plan out to 2022, and I invite you to do the same. I have no idea the next steps along the path of my road to success however I think it is prudent to plan the end goal to have at least something to aim at. I do not think it best to pin ourselves down or be too hard on ourselves about our goals, because we could die any day and enjoying life should be a major priority. Having goals and drive however, will help you enjoy life as well – experiencing the feelings of effort, stress, and accomplishment.

It will be interesting to see how this piece looks in retrospect, and how they evolve in the future. 

 

Poverty Level FI by 34

I currently operate from a mindset of freedom, but by mid 30’s I expect to at least be at the poverty line in regards to the 3-4% rule. I do not plan to sit back and retire early, but I will feel more comfortable shifting to riskier and more interesting ventures at that time. My girlfriend’s current debt level of $100,000 in student loans makes this a bit more difficult, but we play Life on hard mode and don’t worry about complaining. I do not expect to stop at this point but I may be able to relax a little bit more mentally.

Timeline: 34 – 35 years old

 

Married with Kids

I grew up with a very small immediate family. Father is an only child and my mother’s only brother is a childfree child himself. I generally prefer not having a typical large family as my experience is that they tend to get in the way and take up time. At this stage of my life I generally cannot afford to give my time up to anyone, I barely have time for myself to be frank. However some day in the distant future I fully expect to settle down and want to teach mini versions of myself how to survive and thrive even better than I have. I love animals and for now I can only handle dealing with cats, but I do believe sane and educated people have a responsibility to propagate purely to combat the teeming masses of mouth breathers born daily.

Timeline: 29-32 years old

 

NYC Home Base

NYC is my home and it is difficult to explain the hold it has over me. I generally am more of an outdoorsy person that hates crowds and other people. Something about New York though, you can just feed off the energy that is everywhere in the city. I can’t imagine leaving for good and I expect to be here for a few more years at least before the next move. Having my family based in the metro region as well as my current real estate investments and contacts makes it likely I should plan for a base of operations in the most cost effective manner for the coming years. This will likely occur gradually as I build up my rental portfolio as I do not see value in the SFH market in the tri-state currently. Spreading my rentals across a few towns in the region will help for variety as well as diversification to some degree. Its very difficult to tell what is going to be nice with some of the systemic problems, and extremely difficult to afford the desirable places in this wealth accumulation phase. 

Timeline: 33-35 years old

 

Masters Degree Abroad

One of my major goals and reasons for aiming at financial independence is my desire to pursue education abroad. I was unfortunately a terrible student in college and was not eligible for any Study Abroad programs. I wasn’t studying at home so why would they let me study abroad eh? My extended family is all mainly still situated in Bavaria in southern Germany, and every time I visit I fall more in love. I did my undergrad degree in a business discipline because I wanted to have a secure future, it would feel the height of luxury if I were able to go back and study Enlightenment era philosophy or European Public Policy purely to satisfy my own interests. Reading and taking life easy in the farmlands of Bavaria would be blissful and also extremely cost effective. In comparison to US degrees, Europe costs pennies on the dollar. My girlfriend feels the same way so while it may be crazy its not impossible. This is a more out there goal to be sure, and requires a good degree of hustle on my part to get to a comfortable financial position by then.

Timeline: 35-38 years old

 

Bi-Coastal

I do not like to travel too much so this may be a bit of a stretch but I hope to eventually set up some measure of home base in the nicest beach city I can afford. Growing up, the Jersey shore is the main hotspot for clean and enjoyable beaches within some realm of accessibility of Manhattan, but I am not the biggest fan.  There is not much appealing on the East Coast that I’d be interested in, so it is mainly looking like a California future is ahead. I am often told I would fit in well out west with my mannerisms and mentality, so in my near future I expect to start visiting the major spots on my list to be able to accurately plan further.

Timeline: 35 – 40 years old

 

Volunteering with Animals

Another main reason why one should focus on Financial Independence is the freedom to give back to the community and country that has allowed us to attain this level of success. I have spent much of my life volunteering with Animal Welfare organizations and fully expect to throw myself deeper in as I get older. Unfortunately I need to focus on becoming financially stable now, so this will have to wait, but I expect to at least go back to regular volunteering if not a more in depth community organizing role. I have been around presidents of these organizations to the extent that I can feasibly see myself not wanting the headache of running one, but I will cross that bridge when I get there.

Timeline: 35 – 40 years old

 

Digital Marketing

I have no real belief in the myth of passive income. I read a classic book when I was younger that coined the term TANSTAAFL.

There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.

If you think there is then you are dreaming. So my goal is not to pursue the mythical sit back and do nothing money, but to aim at a more lifestyle friendly business. I have been in Marketing and Sales for almost a decade at this point and I want to develop my capacity to work remotely. It is no secret that half of the draw for digital marketing and internet related jobs is the work from anywhere on your computer setup. In the future I see us heading towards it would be embarrassing to not have a more in depth hand and presence in the Internet. There is so much opportunity online, slowly but surely I will continue my education and testing to break in.

Timeline: Present to Perpetuity

 

Real Estate

I enjoy physical labor. Limited amounts to be sure. Having a renovation project or a home to get some sweat equity in excites me. I really enjoy grabbing a beer, some music, and painting and sanding till two in the morning. I do not see myself purchasing my own primary residence any time soon but I do expect to continue to comb the market for good deals on small multi-family homes with my business partners. There is so many future synergies with anything regarding real estate, I plan to buy and hold as many strong cash flow units as I can until I can create a property management and development company to take care of the grunt work. The tax benefits are also amazing as well and I am lucky to have found similar minded partners to pursue these goals with. Full dream would be to end up with a few higher cash flowing ones possibly trading up into small apartment buildings. Ideally at least one multi family on the cliffs overlooking Manhattan – the possibility for multi-generation style housing with a view sounds like a win to me.

Timeline: Present – 45 years old

 

Conquer

It’s messed up but this is what New York does to you. It’s not FIRE. You can’t even really think like that in the atmosphere. It’s designed to actively attack such thoughts about savings and fiscal security. Every day I wade through tourists at Times and Herald square that are frivolously spending money left and right. The whole city is about making and spending money. Now while I am not one for consumerism at all, I certainly do have the desire to just be able to fully enjoy everything the city has to offer. Food, shows, apartments, it is impossible to live in this city and not have big goals. This feeling is addictive and incredibly wasteful – generally not my style. Who doesn’t want to enjoy the best things in life at least to a moderate degree? Do we not work hard enough to deserve them? I will reassess as time goes but I think that it gives life a very strong edge – being out hunting. I could see myself dying from boredom if I retired at 35. 

Timeline: Always

 

The goal is very simple, freedom, it just requires some progress from my initial starting point. I am not one of those trying to retire early and do nothing from my early thirties on. Mainly I cannot abide the thought of being 40+ years old and not fully in control of how I spend my time. Where people initially used to focus on becoming C Suite execs or middle management, I would instead prefer to focus on location independence and minor entrepreneurial efforts. I never had a penchant for people management, and in my experience I have seen pay be distorted towards revenue driving roles and not management.

I have not found true enjoyment in my job in business yet, but I have found a skillset in Sales that will take me there – there is a way to make money and enjoy work at the same time. I believe the Tech Sales industry is going to explode in the near future even further than it has today. If I continue to work on my abilities and with market maturation I  hope to be able to sell the technology that furthers mankind – whether that be micro-satellite bandwidth or the first Robot Personal Assistant. I would love to be able to participate in a product or field where I truly feel that I am helping further our species and its growth.

What about you? Have you set your goals for 2022?

Startup Financial Benefits

A Non-Exhaustive List of the Tangible and Intangible Financial Benefits of Working at a Startup

I used to work for a corporate MegaBank for a few years, and it may be anecdotal experience, but it sucked. I was back and mid-office – with a million 50 year old lifer-analyst data monkeys. I was grateful in some degree for the work and grateful for the name on the resume moreso, but I was extremely depressed during this period of time and was pricing flights out to Tibetan Monasteries as a for-real plan B.

 

I ended up taking a job at Technology Startup and was blown away by the complete change in my mood. I was working double the hours and had gone through a terrible breakup and yet was so happy and fulfilled by actually learning a skill and being valued for once. The word “Culture” is thrown around so much at these companies and it just means generally – shit the company is willing to do to make work slightly less bad. But the perks are seriously insane. I laugh and shake my head at some of the wastes of money at times.

 

It is important to note that a lot of these benefits are non-existent depending on what level the startup is. A great way to gauge is by how many Series Rounds it has been through. Startups go through numerous rounds of raising capital. I joined when there was about 100+ people and they had finished there C or 3rd round of funding. The company was financially solid and long term plans were being deployed. Anyone on the path to focusing on getting ahead at life needs to consider the below benefits and what effects it can have on your Financial Future!

 

Equity

Obviously. Mainly people think about joining a startup are doing so for equity. It is a difficult balance though – to hit a promising startup at just the right moment for the super rare exit occasion for that equity to ever be accessible to you – and I am a pessimist so that I generally consider as icing on the cake. Foot in mouth though as I was able to get roughly 30,000$ in shares and they float around vesting as hazy somewhat real money. Also you can earn equity in numerous ways, often high performers are awarded shares or RSU’s depending on the situation. This is amusingly an insurance policy for the company as well as high value employees have cascading vesting schedules and lose thousands if they leave. Hard to look a gift horse in the mouth though – free money!

 

401k’s

Amazing. Also amazing is legit how many of your coare doing workers do not know there is a max or that they most generally should be maxing it. When I was poorly paid I was putting in to the employee match, but as soon as I was getting commission checks I set it to 10% and ticked it up and down as needed and it started to cruise. I am very relaxed on the whole about the fund allocation within these – as again i just try to remain grateful. Startups are generally heavily pressured into getting these set up as one of the earliest employee benefits as they start to solidify and things are looking grounded. So many people on earth would be better for having a dedicated account like this auto drafting, a majority of Americans even do not have access to this, much the less use it. Auto draft is the savior of my life. It hurts ten times less when you have money taken before it even hits your checking account. Much the same way you don’t feel the sting of paying for health insurance or dental, if you max your 401k you will painlessly be ahead of your coworkers immediately. Tax Free money for future self to compound early on? Yes.

 

Free Food

The wasteful amount of money spent on feeding employees is impressive. Most startups will provide varying levels of the basics at the different levels of success. I managed to join a startup during the Raisin Bran Cereal and Fage Yogurt funding era. Cereal, PB and J, Yogurt, Almond Mlik, Veggie Straws, Granola Bars, Fruit Juices, Keurig Machines, Bread. I am boring and I view food as fuel purely. Due to my unusual eating habits I have had the same breakfast 6 days a week for the past few years and roughly half of my lunches have been covered. This is an immense savings in both time, mental energy, and of course money. Not having to think about what I am eating and or when – they take care of it and it has the desired effect – I devote my time to working more. I have experimented furthering this with Soylent as well for mixed results.

 

HSA’s

As benefits get set up health plans will start up and HSA will eventually be an option. Debatable usefulness entirely based on one’s personal health. Pretty much not worth debating with anyone over as health is a personal situation so their is always a valid reason to using or not using this account. I am young, with no dependents, no upcoming medical expenses, that works out and eats healthy. Set these accounts to max and you are putting away another 3,400$ a year in tax advantaged accounts. I assume I will save my Medical receipts in a Google Doc when I have one. I have activated this for the first time and will share my experience as it goes.

 

ESP

Depending on the stage and culture at your company there will often be an Employee Stock Purchase Program. You can choose to divert some of your wages to a semi regular purchase of the company’s stock, generally at a discounted price. The stipulations and conditions vary widely, but I have been using mine as another automatic withdrawal for savings and then auto selling as I can. This is great when paying down debt as you can throw a huge lump at regular periods a time and get a massive psychological boost. It is important to be strategic about holding vs. selling. It is my current view that between my income and my earned stock I am well exposed to my company as it is. Depending on numerous factors this stance will of course vary dramatically.

 

Free Beer

Happy hours are a standard for forming “Culture.” This allows all members of the company to be approachable. There are no CEOs when everyone has a beer in hand. Techs can talk to Sales and they can all talk to Finance and make fun of Customer Service or Ops together. These are scheduled all the time. Thankfully after the first few – bonding is a great excuse to grab a few for the desk and then excuse yourself to crush some work while getting the buzz on. Productive Beers are right behind Success Beers in awesomeness. Fortune 500 companies are not Mad Men-ing it anymore with a chill mid-day scotch – startups are.

 

Referral Programs

Startups live and die based on their culture. A huge part of culture is based on hiring people that other people like being around – as you are expected to put in long hours and solve problems together. Referral Bonuses range generally from 2,500$ for a basic admin to 10,000$ for more specialise senior positions. Obviously this is a major shot in the dark but if you have a somewhat extensive Linkedin or Facebook database you can feasibly net a pretty reliable side hustle in this area alone. Importantly, one has to weigh the effect of the applicant on your personal brand at the organization. Going to your alma mater and establishing a connection could often be a good way to get a steady pipeline if you have a reputable background. I know a few long time employees at that  will have earned their entire home down payments based off referrals over a few years.

 

Unlimited Vacation Days

This is seriously a thing. It likely will not affect your life if you have sane management. But some people will manage to vacation for months at a time while you toil away to hit your goals. I have never used this but I am sure someone can abuse this in conjunction with Maternity leave timing to have an epically paid free year off.

 

Education Reimbursement

Any HR department has a careful balancing act on hand of following through on promises of career development and keeping that same talent. An easy way they embrace this is the little utilized Federal tax reimbursement. The current max is at $5,250, regardless of income. None of your coworkers are likely smart enough to take advantage of this money, but often employers provide the max knowing how few will take part. Not only will it increase your year end W2, but it can also provide actual education and networking as well. There are numerous programs and education startups around the country geared toward giving you a crash course in something you have some sort of interest in. If you can tangentially relate it to your current role or organization – you get a free resume booster with some light work. I took a course at General Assembly and I can highly recommend it.

 

Goal Bonuses

Depending on your pay structure, your company may set certain minimum goals and certain stretch goals. Seasonality and various organizational factors will come to play here. However if the reward is big enough often if you are 80% capable you can muscle through and put in the extra hours to reach it. If you can manage to overperform and attain the stretch goal, it is often ludicrously outsized in comparison to the normal goal. The reason is entirely because your boss does not care as the cost would be inconsequential with the gain when they brought the news to the higher ups. Under promise and over deliver in all things.

 

Free Clothes

Slightly silly but is it just me or is there something super desirable about a free T-Shirt from something you value? When you spend a lot of time invested in something, any symbolism you can get to tie yourself to that in group is going to be a big want. Startups love to garb their employees in swag. Whether it be through contests or giveaways or earning them through dumb HR events – free hoodies are always amazing. Collecting them like candy is part of being a Silicon Valley Engineer.

 

Free Intramural Sports

If you like team sports you are going to love the shit out of startup world. One of the cornerstones of Culture building is team building activities like lightly competitive intramural sports. HR loves these because it allows them to point at trophies won in non important matches in the interest of bettering the social lives of the nerds it employs. However – if you like a sport – you can most definitely get it either subsidized or funded entirely. Oftentimes there will be a work discount on a particular gym, but a season of basketball could be not only entirely free, but also paid time off from work. Depending on your priorities and comp plan this could be a good thing or bad. Also, requisite free team uniforms for future gym usage – yes thank you.

 

Free Parties

If you live in a good city the parties will slowly but surely develop into more grandiose affairs as your company becomes more successful. You get free liquor and food and possibly some career development or game time. Make sure you live in the HQ office, nothing regional. Generally a free party is a recipe for disaster for your career, but if you are cognizant of the danger and plan accordingly you can succeed. Staying in control of the amount of alcohol and avoiding the post party strip club crowd are right up there with work affairs. Only do it if she is worth your paycheck. It is possible – just not likely. Spare yourself.

 

These are obviously not every financial benefit. Just for kicks we excluded the main one, your salary. These are just some of the minor benefits I have seen and taken full advantage of over the course of my years in startup land. I can’t imagine getting this kind of value with this amount of personal freedom at the corporate mega-bank I was at previously. Hopefully some of you will reconsider the fear and distaste that comes from trying a jump to this side. We may not have the big name – but the money spends just the same.

 

Be a Jedi

Money Music Monday #4

 

 

In Honor of the rare lovely release of a new Star Wars film, I present a fantastic hustle song.

This may not exactly be in the make money vein by lyrics to be sure – it is one of those kind of songs you can go to the gym and run ten miles while listening to.

That is the kind of pump up and dedication needed in life.

 

I love Star Wars mainly for its homage to The Heroes Journey from Joseph Campbell.

If you haven’t read of the connection – it may help make Star Wars less childish and more philosophical to you.

The below link explores much of the impact Campbell had on Lucas’ work with Documentary evidence.

Look Back on 2016, 2016 Review

2016 Year in Review

With 2016 coming to a close I wanted to start my formal review process. I always love reading about how everyone else looks back at their year and plans the next so I figured one has to start somewhere.I did not have this writing space last year, but I do have some checklists and to do lists from January and February of this year. I use Evernote for all of my checklists monthly, half the stuff tends to get done and half the stuff tends to get perpetually pushed off.

This allows me at least some sense of satisfaction by continually checking things off, but I don’t know that it is the system which encourages actual productivity the most. The To-do lists have little rhyme or reason and not much organization. I’m starting to get better but perhaps that will go on my goal list for next year! Without further ado…

2016 Goals

Renovate and Fully Rent Out Property 1

Achieved

This was completed in Q1 of 2016. Out of the three units in the property, two of them have now had moderate full renovations in the past year and a half. The third tenant hasn’t cycled out yet and is quite happy for now. This property is in a B designated neighborhood, so costly upgrades and finish work would do little to affect monthly rental pricing and would likely be mistreated. All of this work was done by myself and my partners, only sub-contracting out electrical and plumbing as I prefer a professional for those. Any standard contracting work we generally can accomplish in house to get some sweat equity. It has been some months since I have heard anything from these tenants, it was a fortunate year in that regard. This property had some appreciation this year to the tune of 7% on Zillow estimations. Considering that everything comparable on the market right now is up 20-30%, I will use Zillow in a light manner.

Purchase Property 2

Failed

This is somewhat out of my control. Starting in Q2 of 2016, the Hudson County market exploded and frankly priced us smaller fish out of the pond. People are purchasing crack houses for half a million that need full gut renovations in very sketchy neighborhoods. For my long term plan I generally go by the rule of “don’t buy something if you would not live there.” It is also difficult managing a partnership to some extent and this failure I attribute to that disjointedness.

Move Apartments

Complete

Beginning of this year I moved into a new apartment with my girlfriend in order to cut down on costs and travel time between our apartments. It has worked out swimmingly so far with very little difficulties of living together. It helps that we both work a lot and have similar hobbies and friends of course. This move was a little different than most as it was during the holidays and the apartment was only a few blocks away. The holidays made it so that few people were inclined to help me or even in the country to do so! Instead, I decided to try to do a slow move in which I put my life on my back and piece by piece marched it half a mile north and up to the 5th floor walk up. This taught me one great way to purge, namely being, “I do not want to carry that for a half hour.” This move was accomplished and the only major loss was an amazing couch that was just not a one man job, he got left on the side of the road for the next guy to enjoy.

Back in the Gym

Achieved

This was a goal mainly due to a current fear I had. I have been a regular gym goer for some years now but in September 2015 I had busted my wrist in a Muay Thai class and never got it checked by a doc. I could not bear any weight and I stupidly thought it would just heal so I kept it lightly ace wrapped for months. I was concerned at the time that I would be so damaged that I wouldn’t be able to get back. I was relatively fixed by late January and I have managed to stay consistent. I am very laid back about the gym so in the new year I would like to push myself to be a little more focused on numbers and improvement.

Write 2 Articles a Week

Failure

This is a fail because this was supposed to occur in January. I have been posting two to three times a week, but I only managed to get things started in December. Too early to tell if I can keep up the pace but so far I am enjoying myself and I have found time to fit this into my schedule somewhat painlessly. It took me months to get out of my head, analysis paralysis is a majority real thing. Also it does not help that I truly did start a writing project in January with a partner. I wrote a nice backlog of stuff for easy release, but relying on someone else allows it so that no one is stepping on the gas at all.

Get a Calendar/Google calendar

Achieved

I did start using Google calendar and I even synched it up with my friends and family. I just do not ever use it. It is nice to have a planner but the life I am currently leading does not have that sort of planning required. I know exactly where I need to be and when and generally I always leave to be at an appointment hours early anyway. Calendars either may not fit my current lifestyle, or I may just not have found the right one for me. Maybe when this blog blows up I will need something to track all the public appearances I will be making, but for now it seems that it’s not needed!

Acquire Furniture

Achieved

With my move into the new apartment came my disgust at the amount of scrap belongings and furniture that needed to be tossed out. Things I had spent good money on that was either out of style or splintered from use after a very short time. Seeing this frivolous waste of money I became obsessed with the idea of BifL or “Buy it for Life.” Instead of getting fashionable items that change as frequently as the seasons, I wanted each item to be of high quality and durability, so that I could buy it once and never think about again. Industrial furniture is very much in line with this mentality. The rough and weathered look of most pieces is relatively timeless. My style does tend to lean towards the steel piping and rough cut oak look anyway, and if these items ever get damaged all it takes is a quick sanding or coat of varnish to brighten them back up. Industrial furniture also has the benefit of often having highly visible and functional assembly processes. Instead of worrying about Ikea slotting fiberboard together, there is giant visible bolts holding half my stuff together. Likely a bit ugly and utilitarian for most, but aesthetics just is not really in my top 5 concerns. Buy it for Life for sure from now on!

Battlestation Home

Achieved

Every futuristic nerd needs a battlestation. I’m not talking about a Death Star or some crazy gun setup though those are great too. A battlestation is a nerds home, it’s where they hang their heart and happiness in a lot of ways. Having a souped up computer is only part of the factor in discussion, it’s more of having a place of pure ease and comfort that you are happy spending large swathes of time at. Each battlestation is individualized based on financial capacity and hobbies. For years I had dreamed of having a professional gamer setup of my own. The release of the Oculus and VR in general gave me an excuse to buy myself a present of the likes that I had dreamed about for years. Buying a full virtual reality setup was a bit aggressive at about $2,300, but I kept myself tame with the peripherals. This was rationalized mainly as a work purchase in that I game only very lightly these days and I want to be as comfortable as possible working from home. The key factors were a standing desk with studio chair and a cheap dual monitor setup. You can buy monitors for $70 these days. No reason not to have two.

No Lunch Spend

Failed

This was and will continue to be an important part of me bringing down my monthly spend. Just from a rough calculation it seems like 15-20% of my monthly spend is on eating out. This is to be expected eating and living in New York City. However I would like to make this more about discipline and directed spending. I will gladly spend $300 on a beautiful dining experience, there really is nothing like it.  However I am piddling away cash on the same meh lunch every few days or the same old okay sushi takeout night. I thankfully have meals highly subsidized by my work and I just need to be mindful to utilize it more.

Set Up Online Presence.

Half Achieved

I started and stopped and rallied and delayed on a million different ideas this year. I was relying on other people. I kept hoping that one of my friends or colleagues would take initiative for me and drag me along. That’s just not how it works. I learned it when I started in sales years ago, but it just needs to be refreshed daily. You eat what you kill. No one will do it for you.  So instead I moved away and started at least trying on my own. I launched my first e commerce store earlier this year just to see what would happen. I ran some ads using the minor nice new skills I had gleaned in General Assembly and proceeded to sell zero. I don’t really care though because it was fully operational, it got traffic, and I launched it basically on my birthday while dying of food poisoning. So I call this a half win. I’m not where I want to be but I am light years ahead of even last year.

2016 on the whole was really great. I have very few bad things to say about it or how I feel about my own performance throughout it. It is always important to look back and measure how you feel about your actions. Many of these goals were not easily measurable or given a time frame. How was your 2016? Do you give yourself an A or an F?

2017 is going to be fantastic. I have started tracking my expenses and really enjoying it so I hope to have a very organized year! I never was into Excel but I am learning how spreadsheets on Google Drive can change your life. With more organization, more projects, and more knowledge, I hope I can top 2016 and I hope you can too!