Summary: Everything you were never taught about money and the important role it plays in your life.
Ever since I was a kid, I can remember having this fantasy of being a “millionaire by 30.” While the goal itself was fine, the reason behind it, in hindsight, was laughable. I guess I just pictured myself pulling up to a beachfront mansion in a Lamborghini while onlookers raved, thinking I was just the epitome of worldly success. The motivation was nothing more than a materialistic ego trip, and the desire to feel important. There was also a major flaw in my mentality because as it turned out, all I really wanted to do at the time was spend a million dollars, which is the exact opposite of what a disciplined millionaire actually does.
I was always fascinated by the concept of money. As a kid I’d ask nosey questions like “how much do you make,” “how much did that cost,” and “are you guys rich?” I was told pretty quickly that it was “rude to talk about money,” and all my questions remained a mystery for a very long time. I have probably heard the line “the love of money is the root of all evil,” more than a dozen times in my life as if that’s an excuse for why it can’t be talked about. Let’s think about that for a second. Is it actually rude to talk about money? Has money really become such a taboo topic that it should never be discussed?
I think the underlying message behind the “it’s rude to talk about money” and “I don’t care about money” statements, is that you shouldn’t judge someone’s value or worth based on their income. I agree with this 100%, but please don’t use that as a reason to not talk about it.
These headlines below tell me there is a huge need for financial education in our parenting, our school system, in our own continued pursuit of knowledge, and in our conversations.
- Money is the #1 cause of divorce in America
- Nearly 80% of all American’s live paycheck to paycheck
- The median retirement savings in America for people age 55 to 64 is only $107,000
- 78% of NFL players go bankrupt within 2 years of retirement
- One-third of all lottery winners go bankrupt
- Student loan debt in America hits 1.6 trillion
- Nearly 60% of adults don’t have enough money saved to cover a $1,000 emergency
- 70% of rich families lose their wealth by the second generation, and 90% by the third
I have read several books about wealth, spent endless hours on the internet searching things like “how to get rich,” and even things as exact as “how to be a millionaire by 30.” I’ve watched over 500 youtube videos about wealth building and investing, listened to podcasts, and talked directly with many millionaires and business owners. After growing up and maturing (a little) I have a very clear understanding of wealth, and how to achieve it. More importantly, I understand the meaning of money in our lives. Today on my 30th birthday, I want to share it with you in hopes that it will enrich your own life.
THE PURPOSE OF MONEY:
So, what IS money’s role in our lives? It’s nothing more than utility, a tool, and an exclamation mark. It makes us more of who we already are. If you’re a greedy person, having money will make you more greedy. If you’re a generous person, having money enables you to be even more generous. If you’re a traveler, having money gives you the freedom to travel more. If you’re a happy person, you’ll be happier because you’ll have less to stress about. If you aren’t excited about your job, having money gives you the freedom to change to a career path that you will feel more fulfilled in. Put simply, it is a fuel for what we value and define as our purpose.
Purpose is what I’d define as a combination of religion, family, friends, hobbies, love, freedom and happiness which are decided by our own core values and worldview.
Wealth and health are both amplifiers for the things that matter in life (purpose).
MACRO UNDERSTANDING OF MONEY:
There are three things you must be able to do effectively to build wealth. You must know how to make money, keep money, and invest money.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad points out that rich people invest in assets, whereas poor and middle-class people put their money in liabilities. An asset is something that makes you money without you needing to spend time on it. Some may call it “passive income.” Examples of this are investment properties, stocks that pay dividends, bonds, CD’s, businesses that you’ve worked yourself out of and intellectual property that you are receiving royalties from.
The main mistake the middle class and poor make is using their “active income” (money generated by their time) to pay for their expenses and liabilities. Many people actually use their active income to determine their lifestyle which forces them to live paycheck to paycheck and always stress about finances. The rich on the other hand use their active income to invest in assets, then the assets pay for their liabilities and expenses. See the difference?
Rich Dad, Poor Dad also describes wealth as how long you can go without working again. The rich set themselves up for long term wealth by having assets that cover their expenses. The middle class set themselves up for failure by having their income directly tied to their time and how many years they work.
Why do you think the rich get richer and the poor stay poor? The poor and middle class are putting all of their hard earned “active income” into buying stuff from the businesses owned by the rich, renting from the apartments that the rich own, paying high bank interest to the banks that own their mortgage, whose main shareholders are the rich. See the trend? The rich own things that generate them money without their time being a factor.
The reason so many people throw their money at liabilities is that liabilities have become the American dream. Look at the life roadmap of a middle-class person. They go to college to get a fancy degree on large student loans (liability), they buy a house (a liability), have kids (liabilities), upgrade their cars every 3 years or so (liabilities), buy the latest overpriced cell phone every other year (liabilities), purchase a nice boat (liabilities), and maybe later, they’ll buy a vacation home in Florida, which you guessed it, also a liability.
On top of this many people upgrade their home every 5-7 years which restarts the most expensive portion of their mortgage over and over again while losing 9% of the sale price on every single sale in closing costs. The people that are disciplined enough to save money end up throwing it in their bank to build a “nest egg” that will eventually deplete when they retire because that nest egg isn’t properly invested.
The issue for most of the middle class is that assets just aren’t sexy, and they don’t give immediate gratification. If someone feels like they’ve been working really hard, they usually want to go out and buy a new vehicle, or maybe get a new “toy.” This is backward thinking because if you worked really hard and wanted to reward yourself, why wouldn’t you want that money to be strategically invested so it will pay you dividends for life?
PRINCIPLE 1: MAKE MONEY
If you are wanting to be a millionaire in an accelerated amount of time (by 30 for example), you need to have a high income. There’s not really a good way around that. If you aren’t in a rush, it’s pretty easy to do the math and see how much more your income is over your expenses, and multiply that until you get to a million to see how many years it would take.
I want to start off with what is the biggest first liability for many people – College. This may be too late for many of you, but most of you don’t need to spend $40k a year for college. There is also a huge opportunity cost of going to college vs working. Here are my personal recommendations below if you’re striving for high income.
High paying fields to go to college for:
- Public Accounting / Actuary
High paying jobs that you do not need college for:
- Business Owner
- Strategic Copywriting
- Sales / Closing
- Real Estate
- Digital Marketing
- Coding (software and web)
- Online Businesses
If you need to go to college for your career path, consider a community college for the first couple of years. If you are foregoing college in pursuit of a more entrepreneurial path, why not just mimic a college experience and education for free? If you break down what college education actually is, it’s a group of people with a common interest, learning from both a mentor and reading material while typically bouncing ideas off each other. Why not find a meetup or create a group that is all doing the same things that you want to do, find a mentor, and continually learn about what you want to know more of? You definitely don’t need to pay $40,000 a year to get a practical education this way. Everything you could want to know is already on Google and Youtube.
Avoid pessimism. Avoid envy, people who can’t achieve success themselves so they think you shouldn’t have it either (“the 1% are evil” mentality). Be optimistic but skeptical. The most successful people in the world have remained focused and said “no” to the most opportunities.
Surround yourself with successful and competitive people. Studies show you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. If you want to be a millionaire by 30, you better start spending time with other millionaires!
If you’re currently working for a company and want to increase your salary, there are several ways to do this. The first way is to look at the owner’s tasks and stressors. How can you make the owner less stressed and add the most value to the company? The two things that typically do this, are management and sales. If you’re taking off managerial roles from the owner of your company, or a superior, then you are providing more value to the company and are therefore worth more money. If you offer leads to your boss that result in sales, or better yet make the sales yourself, you are worth more to your company.
The other two methods are basically figuring out what your actual market value is. You can do this by applying for competing jobs and seeing what kind of offers you get. I’ve heard people taking other job offers to their bosses to argue for a market competitive raise. Be warned that this method would need to be done with a bit of finesse and you’d need to really have a key role in the company to do this. I doubt employers like the idea of their employees job shopping.
The last method which is probably the fastest and most effective is to job hop every couple of years. If you stay at a company, they will most likely give you incremental raises based on your starting salary which doesn’t really reward you for improving. If you switch to a different company, your new starting salary there now should be in direct compensation of your current market value.
Making extra money and doing “side hustles” is a big trend right now. While I’ll always applaud the hustle, I definitely would say to weigh the value or your free time and compare how working more than 40 hours a week weighs against your “purpose.” If you’re about to go ruin all of your friendships by trying to recruit for the latest pyramid scheme, how does that weigh against your values and purpose?
PRINCIPLE 2: KEEP MONEY
The only way to save money is to have your expenses be less than your income. There are two key things I like to consider when deciding if an expense or purchase is worth it.
The present value of my money
Figure out what your effective tax rate is. If you’re going to buy a car for $20,000, how much money did you need to make to get that $20,000 after taxes? If you’re at a 30% effective tax rate, you would have to make $26,000 to purchase that car for $20,000. Is it still worth it?
The future value of my money
If you estimate an average return of 7% in the stock market with dividends reinvested, you can easily figure out the future value of money. I like to use 65 as a benchmark for “future money” since that’s the normal retirement age.
Don’t worry, I’ll do the math for you:
At age 20, $1000 is worth $21,000 at age 65.
At age 30, $1000 is worth $10,677 at age 65.
At age 40, $1000 is worth $5,427 at age 65.
At age 50, $1000 is worth $2,759 at age 65.
Now with that same example, if I’m 20 years old looking to buy a $20,000 car, not only did I have to make $26,000 to buy it, but that $20,000 is worth $420,000 at age 65. Are both of those things worth it to you?
You need to find your “sweet spot” based on your values and purpose though. I’m not promoting being the richest guy in the nursing home and having never spent money or enjoyed life, but I do want to emphasize being very frugal at a young age and being conscious of what large purchases can mean in the long term. It also emphasizes the importance of starting to invest young in safe dividend paying investments.
This is the kind of math that ended up making me drive my 1997 Cadillac Deville for 12 years. Up until this past year I only viewed vehicles as transportation from point A to point B. When I learned my wife was pregnant, my values adapted regarding vehicles. Having safe and reliable transportation for my son was now more important to me than avoiding putting any money into something that depreciates so quickly. At that point, I upgraded my car.
Most “how to be a millionaire” posts automatically assume you’re spending $5000 a year on Starbucks. I’m not going to do that, but it does also point out that long-term habits seem to be the thing that decides whether people can save money.
Here are some habits to cut down your liabilities/expenses that if you implement them you will achieve wealth quicker:
Understand Where Your Money Is Going:
If you look at your last year of spending, where does most of your money go? I don’t necessarily want you to change your lifestyle if you’re fiscally responsible, but there are ways you can have the same lifestyle by spending less. Knowing where most of your money is going is a great place to start.
Some of the most praised things to spend your money on, like cars, boats, phones, computers, tv’s, and “toys,” also depreciate the fastest.
- Buy vehicles that are at least 3-4 years old so that they’ve already depreciated at least 50% from the sticker price.
- Upgrade your phone every several years instead of every 2.
- Don’t buy the latest model in technology. Tech is so good now that you’re fine getting last years model for a significant discount.
There are endless applications of this but I recommend considering this at a minimum for all of your monthly subscriptions, and for travel.
- Can you go on a trip with friends and split the Airbnb?
- Can you split or get access to your friends/family’s Amazon Prime Account?
- Can you split or get access to your friends/family’s Netflix account?
- Can you cancel your cable bill and split Youtube TV with a friend/family member?
- Can you carpool or rideshare with friends/family?
- Can you split a babysitter if you’re going out with friends that night?
- Can you get on a family phone plan instead of paying solo?
- Can you borrow your friends Costco membership login for an online purchase?
- Can you share an apartment with roommates instead of paying extra for a 1 bedroom?
- Can you split the internet bill with the person across the hall in your apartment building?
Take Advantage of Promotions:
- Bank Account Churning
- Credit Card Churning
- Credit Card Points (pay off the full balance every month)
Bank Account Management:
LMCU pays 3% on up to $15,000 for their checking account with some manageable fine print. If you are married, you and your spouse could each have an account and make about $900 extra a year on this interest. It beats any CD on the market right now.
If you need a larger “emergency fund” or want a place to store cash while saving up for real estate or a large purchase, online banks like Discover offer a $200 sign up promotion on $25,000 and pay 2.1% interest on the cash in there. You can access the money after the first 2 months are up for the promotion. I prefer this a lot more than CD’s because I can then access the money any time.
Be a Savvy Buyer:
- Buy flight tickets on Tuesdays. (typically the cheapest day)
- Wait 24 hours before buying something you want to weed out impulse purchases
- Understand your vices and avoid them (my wife won’t let me go to Meijer because she knows I’ll spend $30 on random sugary products every time)
- Don’t be uneducated when buying real estate or vehicles
- Know benchmark pricing for things you want to buy so you can get them when they are on sale/discounted.
- Shop your mortgage – Getting 5 quotes from mortgage brokers, comparing points, interest rates, and closing costs ended up saving me a little over $2000 after negotiation in closing costs with LMCU.
- If you aren’t in a rush, make a list of larger items you plan to buy and simply wait until Black Friday to purchase everything. If you do this maybe double check that your spouse isn’t planning on any of those items being Christmas presents. Not speaking from experience or anything here… 😉
- Don’t be in a position of “need.” If you “need” a car and can’t leave a dealership without one, guess who’s not going to get a deal? If you don’t care if you upgrade or not and will only buy with a good deal, guess who is going to get one? This applies to many areas in life. The people who lost fortunes during the 2008-09 housing and stock market crashes are the ones that NEEDED to sell. The ones who weren’t in need were able to buy and take advantage of the opportunity.
Keep it in the family:
- If you buy a vehicle from family, you can avoid paying the sales tax on it. Who knows, if they are nice maybe they will sell it to you for the trade in value.
- If you buy real estate from family, you can avoid the property tax jumping significantly because the original value won’t get reassessed. This can save thousands a year potentially especially if you have a family member that bought a nice lake house several years ago when real estate prices were down.
There will be times in your life when you will have a windfall of cash. Whether it be a bonus, a tax refund, an inheritance, or maybe you actually did win the lottery. These are easier to spend because it may seem like some cash outside of your salary fell on your lap. Use these moments to invest the money in things that will make you money long term and maybe you won’t be one of the 70% that squanders their parents nest egg.
One of the biggest mistakes people can make with money is moving too often. Every time you buy a house and get it financed, there are several thousands of dollars going into closing costs. You’re also restarting the most expensive portion of the mortgage with every move. If you don’t know what I mean by that, look at a loan amortization schedule. They are front-loaded with interest payments so the first month is almost all interest, and the last month has almost no interest.
Every time you sell a home, you’re losing close to 9% in closing costs (3% to each realtor and about 3% in title fees). Unless there is a big fundamental reason that you need to move (more space for kids, better location, change of jobs), I recommend making improvements to your current home so you want to live there longer rather than moving. Even if redoing the kitchen would encourage you to stay at your current house for another couple years, it could be worth doing!
A Few Other Healthy Habits:
- Make Coffee at home
- Bring lunch to work
- Buy gift cards to reliable/stable restaurants around christmas for free money
PRINCIPLE 3: INVEST MONEY
When it comes to money management and investing, there are many opinions to consider so you need to decide what matches your level of risk tolerance, income level, and comfort level. People like Dave Ramsey will preach religiously against any sort of debt and will encourage you to take off every single liability on your expenses list that you can. Whereas, people like Grant Cardone will encourage you to as far as you can into debt investing in real estate (assets), and have the cash flow from those assets cover your living expenses. Grant Cardone pushes this so hard that he recommends renting where you live and leasing your vehicle so that none of your cash is tied up in “dead equity” and all of it can be used to invest in assets. One thing that both of these people have in common is that living frugally while building up your finances is very important.
As I mentioned previously, I’m not a big fan of the whole build a nest egg and pull from it at retirement and watch it slowly go down to 0 as you age. I really like the concept of having your money work for you and continually cover your living expenses without you needing to dedicate time to it.
I think to start it makes sense to get rid of all of your debts aside from your mortgage, then if you’re conservative like me, I recommend paying a chunk down on your mortgage only at the start so it takes off the most expensive portion of the amortization. If you can pay down the mortgage ⅓ of the initial loan price quickly, your effective interest rate can actually be as low as 2% if you ride out minimum payments for the rest of it. This is the rate of inflation and at that point, your money will be better off invested elsewhere.
I see many posts online from young people wondering what they should do with the $500 they have saved up. The issue they have is they don’t realize that $500 isn’t meant to be turned into $1,000,000. They end up throwing it at things like cryptocurrency, penny stocks, or lottery tickets hoping to win big rather than investing for the long term.
My recommendation is if you have a small amount of money saved, invest it in yourself and your own money making ability. If you instead put that $500 in your own knowledge and training on how to be better at what you do or sell what you do better, that’s how you can make that money work the most for you. If you can close an extra $20,000 in sales because of buying and reading 5 sales/business books or video courses, where else can you get that sort of return?
If you’re an entrepreneur, I recommend investing in yourself until you can make $250k a year. You will then be an accredited investor and can invest in private deals that aren’t available to the public.
I like the idea of taking a three-prong approach to investing:
The first idea is to invest in yourself and your own money making ability and business (if you’re self-employed).
The second is to max out 401k’s and Roth IRA’s with dividend-paying stocks and mutual funds like the S&P500 or QQQ.
The third is to invest in real estate for cash flow opportunities and tax benefits. Investment real estate offers many tax havens and produces income. Real estate tax advantages include 1031 exchanges and depreciation. The great thing about real estate is that your money can go much further by leveraging debt. If you have $100,000 and put it in the stock market, you can control $100,000 of stocks. If you, however, buy real estate with that $100,000, you can leverage debt and control $400,000 of cash flowing real estate. (Using a 25% down on a non-owner occupant multifamily home as an example)
If you buy an investment property for $275,000, you can depreciate this against the income of the property over 27.5 years. This means that every year up to $10,000 of income after deductions is tax-free for those first 27.5 years.
1031 Exchange Explained:
If you have a $100,000 investment property that you’ve put 25% down on, and a year later that property is worth $125,000, you’ve essentially doubled your money. If you sold the place to collect the $50,000 you could do a 1031 exchange to avoid paying tax on the gains (by having it reinvested into another investment property). This would give you the opportunity to put $50,000 down on the next place, which could qualify you for a $200,000 property. People can use this to start with very small properties and turn them into very large investment properties over time by using the non-taxed profits to put towards upgrading their property.
What I would do if I could be 20 again:
If I were able to restart my investment career, I’d do what’s called house hacking. I’d basically buy a duplex, live in half for 12 months, then move onto the next, buying another multi-family home every year. By living in the home first you get better interest rates on the property and don’t have to put as much down. The requirement is living there for 12 months before moving to the next place.
This would allow me to accumulate a large portfolio of real estate at a young age and have great cash flow due to the low-interest rates. I’d also be able to cash out refi older properties that went up in value to then use that money to buy even more properties. The thing with real estate is even if the market goes down, what matters in rental properties is the cash flow, not the book value on the property. The actual value only really matters when you’re looking to sell.
So why don’t I do this nomad lifestyle now? Being married and having a kid changed my values. I’d rather stay put in a house and neighborhood I really like, rather than move every single year for the sole purpose of a lower mortgage rate. At this point, it makes more sense for me to accumulate income properties at a slightly slower pace, and a higher interest rate if that means I have a permanent place to call home.
There is one final note I’d like to make about cash flowing real estate and dividend-paying stocks. They are able to generate income without your time involved, so at the end of your life, you can set up a trust to have those income-generating assets giving to causes you care about every single month and take care of your own family long after you die. How’s that for a legacy?
I want to end this post with a quick story. When I was about 10 years old, my family was on vacation with some family friends. The weather was great and we went to the beach out in Holland. My friend and I ended up running around to every single trash can on the beach that day multiple times collecting pop cans. We ended up making around $20 that day to split and we were stoked about it. Looking back, I think I missed the entire point of the trip.
I could have spent the whole day with friends and family enjoying the lake and playing games in the sand. Don’t miss the purpose of being at the beach in the first place (enjoying time with family and friends) to chase a few extra bucks. Money was the tool that helped us get to the destination (vehicle, time off work, and gas). Money wasn’t the destination.
In other words, don’t miss out on purpose because of money chasing. However, absolutely let money fuel your purpose.
Want To Learn More? I Highly Recommend Reading The Following Books:
Rich Dad, Poor Dad – by Robert Kiyosaki
The 10x Rule – by Grant Cardone
How To Win Friends & Influence People – by Dale Carnegie
The 4-Hour Work Week – by Tim Ferriss
Millionaire Success Habits – by Dean Graziosi
The 10 Pillars of Wealth – by Alex Becker
Think and Grow Rich – by Napoleon Hill
Disclaimer: I’m not a financial advisor or tax advisor. This post is for entertainment purposes only and is of my own opinions based on personal experience. All facts and promotions should be verified.