This post was originally written for the New Year 2017/18, but its lessons are timeless: Please also consider this as you plan for 2021/22/23… or within the year.
Set challenging targets for 2018. Plan to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Try new things, learn new skills, keep pushing yourself forward, change and enrich your mind and your world. Embrace change. Be not afraid to make mistakes. Nothing is perfect from the beginning. Whatever it is, family, love, art, work – life itself. Do something new, something you’re scared of doing. Dare to allow yourself to make mistakes. Only this way can you grow!
In a life well lived, each succeeding day becomes better than the last. Each day, each year, each experience does not stand alone. It cannot be separated from what has happened before or what may happen later. Yesterday determines today and today helps determine tomorrow. Decide and plan your tomorrow today. Do not stick to business as usual, don’t be a play-it-safer, a creature of the commonplace or a slave of the ordinary.
If you want to have an extraordinary life, you got to get rid of your ordinary one first.
Same procedure as every year James?
If you are aiming for a journey towards financial independence: Dream big, plan ahead and get started. Life is busy. Time flies. Organize your life. No one cares about your success more than you do yourself. And surprise: It’s not all about a budget, saving or investing.
1. Re-Imagineer Your Relationship Infrastructure
Your social environment defines who you become. Did you know that you’ll become the average of the five people you hang out the most with in your life? Therefore: Ensure that you surround yourself with people sharing your vision for financial success!
You become the average of the five people you hang out with.
Do you spend enough time nurturing relationships that matter? Do your current relationships bring you closer to where you want to be? Do you actively reach out and try to connect with people that are already living a life you’d like to live yourself? How do you manage toxic relationships that drag you down? Is the bulk of your current relationships meaningful and enjoyable?
Find five people within your social network that are living the life you dream about, increase engagement with them and learn from and with them. Grow together! Re-imagineer your trusted circle. Engage also in social media online groups such as Choose FI on Facebook.
Your network is your net worth. How do you value your network? Well, if you don’t value it, cultivate it, nurture it, it becomes worthless. If you do value it, it becomes priceless.
If you’re looking for a new start in 2018, this is where to get started!
2. Commit Yourself to Lifelong [Financial] Learning
If you want to grow, you got to keep learning and expose yourself to new experiences. Make expanding your mindset your new habit – embrace ongoing learning. Learn one or two new skills in 2018. This could be anything you believe could add value to your immediate life. Learn how to cook, how to write, how to invest better, how to start a business, anything that brings you forward and closer towards your goals! The most important thing is to get started and keep going so it may become one of your habits.
Make it a habit to read three blog posts a day – http://rockstarfinance.com/ already did the job for your pre-selection by posting the three best personal finance posts every day! Listen to good podcasts on your commute to and from work.
Simply: Create an environment that won’t allow you to escape your new habits anymore. Set yourself up for success.
Jerry Seinfeld has a great way to make new behaviours a sticky habit. Get yourself a big wall calendar and hang it on a prominent wall. For each day you got to do your newly self-assigned task, e.g. to write or to read, take a big marker and make an X over that day. After a couple of days, there will be a chain of Xs on your wall and you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Keep at it and let the chain grow longer. Your only job now is to NOT break the chain! After a couple of weeks you can put the calendar aside as you’d be living your new habit.
Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom. Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching. Education, therefore, is a process of current living and not a preparation for future living.
Bonus tip: For myself, I always carry a notebook and pen with me to write down new ideas as they pop up, some people also use online tools such as Evernote. Do this right after you’ve had an inspirational chat, listened to a podcast or finished your three blog posts a day.
Commit yourself to lifelong learning. The most valuable asset you’ll ever have is your mind. Don’t starve it and feed it well.
3. Set A Net-Worth Target
Humans are simple, they usually pay extra attention on what is being measured. Hence, measure financial success, and I assure you will pay attention to it. Start tracking your net-worth, set-up an excel and define a net worth target for you to reach in the next five years, by end of 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Goals are simply a dream with a deadline.
What is your current net-worth? Well, you basically add up all your assets and deduct your liabilities. Track the value of your cash, your investment account, your real estate, your business and deduct your loans, your mortgage and any other outstanding liabilities. The resulting balance is your net-worth. Aim to grow it.
When people calculate their net-worth for the first time, some will add their furniture, a car, an impressive DVD collection and assign highly subjective dream valuations to it. Don’t be like these people. Only consider your tangible assets with a objective market value for your net-worth calculation.
Net-worth can be grown by increasing your assets, by decreasing your liabilities or by doing both at the same time. Define by how much you aim to grow your net-worth in 2018 and get started.
Wealth is not money, it’s capacity for quality of life.
4. Activate Your Assets
Look through your list of assets – as in step 3 – and try to find any assets that are currently idle and could be put to work harder in order to help you achieve your net-worth target easier. This could be a large chunk of cash, gold or other unproductive assets, an extra room or two in your home, an extra parking lot, assets in your retirement account not invested efficiently or many other things that I might not have listed in this paragraph.
An asset is something that puts money in your pocket, a liability is something you still got to pay for or that costs you holding it. Hence, you better check if there’s any idle parts in your overall assets that you could activate or reconfigure. Any idle asset that you could activate today will start adding money to your pocket tomorrow and lets you achieve your financial targets earlier and easier.
You got a huge home? Rent out one or two rooms in your home! You got a parking lot but no car? Rent out your parking lot! Reconsider your current retirement account investments and make sure your current assets are put to work in an efficient manner. Many people will be surprised to find potential for further optimization in this area. Activate your assets!
A related area could also be to optimize your debt. Maybe you could pay-off high interest liabilities with lower interest loans and streamline your liabilities part as well. Sometimes I meet people who take up a car-loan but could have borrowed for much cheaper against their home or their portfolio.
In case you like to explore this topic further, you might also enjoy reading my post “Your Gravity Defying Money Bazooka”.
5. Increase your earnings
Are you making as much money as you’d like to? No? No problem: Everything is figureoutable! If you’re not making enough money [yet], then you need to get more creative. The majority of our fellow human beings rely on their salary for a lifetime. That’s not wrong, but it decreases their chance to attain financial independence dramatically. Did you know that the average millionaire has somewhere around seven different sources of income? In case you’d like to earn more money, don’t just focus on your job alone. Explore, dream, discover!
The most helpful tool I’ve come across for this step is Rich Dad Poor Dads Cash Flow Quadrant. The Cash Flow Quadrant is comprised of four quadrants. You might want to view this short video for further clarity before we move on.
E stands for Employee – Human Capital, no leverage
People that “have a job”, they sell their time and are “compensated” with money. Whatever value they create or contribute is absorbed by a company and they are “rewarded” with a salary for their efforts. As you will shortly see, this is unfortunately the poorest quadrant of them all. It offers no leverage and you can’t stop working without loosing your income immediately. Active, linear income with time constraint.
S stands for Self-Employed – Human Capital, no overhead
People in this quadrant “own a job”. They are self-employed and can cut-out paying for expensive offices, bosses or other stakeholders involved in the E quadrant. Hence, they can earn somewhat more money against their time. However, it’s just another version of the “time against money” game since if a self-employed stops working, no income is flowing back to them. Somewhat more money, but still active, linear income with time constraint.
B stands for Business – Human Capital with leverage
People in this quadrant “own a system”, the system allows other people to work with them and hence, they have a leverage component in terms of manpower. The system and its people work for the owner. The key to building a sustainable business system is to have useful, unique and hard to copy products, solutions or services combined with a great branding. Franchise systems can also be considered. In order to be successful, people need to transition from a job-mentality to a business person mindset. They need to learn how to hire and motivate the right people and how to keep all stakeholders involved happy over time. This quadrant is still a rather active one, but offers leverage from the peoples’ as well as the capitals component. Owning and managing a business is more risky than holding or owning a job. Therefore governments around the globe incentivize them with tax benefits people in the E and S quadrant don’t have.
I stands for Investors – Financial Capital with leverage
Last but not least, the investor. The big difference of this quadrant is that investors invest their financial capital instead of their human capital. In other words, they send money to work. This quadrant is therefore the only truly passive income quadrant. The active part comes from choosing the right investment cases and reviewing existing investments once in a while. Investments can be made in businesses, the capital markets as well as in real estate. This quadrant offers you unlimited upside potential but also bears most risks due to the volatility of the markets.
A common way towards Financial Independence is to slowly emerge from the E quadrant towards the S and B quadrants while constantly feeding the I quadrant on the side over time. Don’t just diversify your investments, also diversify your streams of income. Evolve from the E and S quadrants and start unlocking the B and I quadrants for yourself. In case you like it on the safe side: You can still hold your job while taking the first steps into these new fields! Don’t chase seven rabbits until you learn how to catch one.
I would rather earn 1% off a 100 people’s efforts than 100% of my own efforts.
– John D. Rockefeller
6. Multiply your streams of [passive] income
There are different forms of income. In step 5 you’ve seen that there are active and more passive forms of income. You can either sell your time for money or create systems such as a business or investment strategy to provide you with income. Most people start the wealth building process with an active form of income: salary.
Get started on this path and as your active income grows, open up and invest into passive streams of income.
First step: Make a list of all your current streams of income.
Interest [cash, bonds, mutual funds, ETF]
Dividends [stocks, mutual funds, ETF]
Capital Gains [real estate and capital market investments]
Rental income [apartments, rooms, parking lots]
As you look through this list, categorize the income streams into active and passive streams of income. Also make a triage in terms of how much return on investment you could possibly obtain by shifting your focus and/ or more capital into each respective source of income. Now, figure out how much additional resources such as time and savings you could possibly boost every month and define into which income streams you’d be investing your time and money going forward.
As the CEO and CFO of YOU Inc., it’s your job to focus on increasing your passive streams of income, especially where your expected return on investment is the highest. In order to learn more and get your streams of income from more independent sources, try to diversify into several streams of income as long as the administrative effort is manageable.
Imagine: If you’d be a publicly listed stock, would you invest in yourself?
If you don’t find a way to make money while you sleep, you will work until you die.
– Warren Buffett
7. Reduce your expenses
Live below your means. Avoid lifestyle inflation. Do not keep up with the Joneses, rather try to keep up with the Mustachians.
Did you know Warren Buffett is still living in the same home he bought for USD 31,500 back in 1958. He managed to avoid lifestyle creep and smartly reinvested his savings instead of upgrading his residence. Amongst other reasons such as being patient, sticking to his strategy and reinvesting his profits, this allowed him to “early retire at 25” and focus on his true passion: Investing instead of selling stocks. Eventually, this helped him to unlock the magic of compounding interest and lead a happy, self-determined life.
Warren never thought of a $5,000 couch simply as a $5,000 couch. He calculated that $5,000 in today’s dollars multiplied with 7% annual performance over 50 years would represent an opportunity loss of $5,000 x 1.07^50 = $150,000. Now imagine, how much a new car, that expensive dress or a designer bag will actually cost you in tomorrows’ dollars. On top of that, such stuff will all end up as trash.
Warren is smart and successful. Be more like Warren.
Constantly throwing money at new experiences or more stuff is also not a recipe for lasting happiness and contentment. Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to live like a caveman. But I’m 100% confident almost everyone can cut back their expenses and reinvest the difference in order to snowball their wealth up faster. Economize somewhat, simply spend less on housing, cars, eat out less often, keep your desire to acquire in check and off you go!
8. Pay yourself first – automate your investments
The majority of people simply spend their whole pay-check and only in the rare and special case some cash remains after a month, this might eventually get stashed away. Why not do the opposite and pay yourself first instead? Did you know Mustachianism comes from MUST-STASH!?
“Treat your savings account like just another bill. It has to be paid every month or there are consequences.”
Define how much to stash away every month! Right after you’ve received your pay check, pay yourself first. Best is to have this transfer automated! Stash this cash into your savings or even better investment account. By doing this, you will not be tempted to spending away your saving portion and you will start getting used to making ends meet with whatever amount is left in the bank account after having paid yourself. Another habit is created!
After you paid yourself first – get this surplus invested and make it work for you. Invest whenever your money is ready, invest regularly, best is to have investing automated as well so you don’t have to actively make an investment decision every single month and end up suffering severe decision fatigue. Once you pay yourself first and the investment part is put on auto-pilot, you’re set for a financially successful 2018 and beyond!
Looking for more reading material on these topics?
Remember: Failing to plan is planning to fail!
To reaching new heights and making dreams work in 2018!