# Investment logic gone askew …

Whilst I was traveling, I hope that you had a little time to reflect on some of the advice that I’ve been dishing out over the last few years?

It’s important that you don’t just follow my (or anybody’s) advice blindly, else you may end up making some fatal logic errors like this poor bloke:

Suppose I have 100K in an index fund that has a ten year return of 7.4%, a five year return of 8.2%, a 3 year return of 17.5%, and a 1 year return of 24.76%.  That is a pretty dependable return over the last few years, but it will probably not keep up with the 24.76% return, but will probably maintain at least a 7% return over the next year.  So I assume that 7% return.

I want to buy a car for 100K.  I can take money out of the index fund to buy the car, and give up \$7000 over the next year.  I can borrow money at 2% and pay \$2000 in interest over the next year.  If I choose to pay cash, I lose \$7K, but if I borrow and leave my own \$100K in the mutual fund, I pay \$2K and earn \$7K, for a net gain of \$5K.

So my logic says that paying cash for anything when the investment return is higher than the interest rate is a mistake.  Suze Orman won’t give me advice on this, so if my logic is off, I hope someone will show me better logic.

Have you spotted the flaws?

Well …

The principle of taking a 2% loan on the car so that he can invest at 7% elsewhere is sound, BUT his assumptions are wrong:

1. A low-interest car loan is generally subsidized by price.

Check the true rate, if it’s more than 2% then he is probably better off negotiating the cash price lower THEN doing his cash v finance analysis.

`[Source: http://www.bankrate.com/]`

2. Unless he’s planning on a 7+ year auto loan, the correct comparison is the finance rate on the loan against a CD for the same term.

This is because the stock market is way too volatile and he needs an investing horizon of at least 7 – 10 years before returns even approach ‘normal’.

In fact, even though this chart doesn’t show that time period, he needs at least 30 years (based on nearly 100 years of data) to ‘guarantee’ at least an 8% return (the worst thirty-year period delivered an average annual rate of 8.5% between 1929 and 1958).

3. Your past returns are NO predictor of future performance:

His ~25% of last year could just as easily be a LOSS of 48% next year. Look what happened in 2008:

But, he redeems himself, somewhat:

The same logic applies to my mortgage: I pay 2.62% on my house.  I could pay it off, but taking the money out of an international fund with a one year return of 22.85% would result in a net loss of \$100k over the next year (moving \$500K from an investment at 22.85% to pay off a \$500K balance at 2.62%).

4. On the other hand, his mortgage comparison is ideal:

If you can lock in a 3o year mortgage, fixed at today’s ridiculously low rates, and lock that money into a low-cost index fund for the same period then, yes, you are almost assured of a 3%+ net return, compounded for 30 years (which means that he should almost return 1.5 x his initial investment PLUS whatever profit he makes on your property).

That’s why real-estate is such a great long-term investment, and why the stock market is a terrible short-term gamble.

# Sudden Money. Sudden Death.

Winning the lottery may not kill you, but 70% of the time, it spells financial suicide:

It is estimated that up to 70% of all people who suddenly receive large amounts of money will lose that money within a few years.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that the twin culprits are:

1. Gaining a large sum of money too quickly; this can be from an inheritance, winning the lottery, selling a business, and so on.

2. Impulse spending; the more you have, it seems, the bigger the amounts that you are prepared to spend on impulse.

The problem is, if you gain your money too quickly, you don’t give yourself time on the way up, to learn the lessons of money management that need to be learned in order not to fall back down.

And, when it comes to money, the bigger they are (as in, the bigger the windfall gain), the harder they fall:

So, here’s my golden advice on dealing with ‘sudden money’ that will help you avoid going broke again …

… as soon as you get that windfall, start using this table to effectively control that spending impulse:

If you hit the jackpot and made more than a couple of million, then you just start adding zero’s to the dollar amounts in this table, to suit!

But, the ‘default table’, as presented above, is a pretty good place to start …

… and, there’s no reason why you need to wait for the windfall before you start using it 😉

# What’s an eco-friendly standard of living?

Fellow blogger, Jonathan Ping, was kind enough to include a chart from one of my earlier posts in one of his recent posts, so I thought that I should repay the favor by including one of his charts, here:

I recommend that you read his original post, but the chart itself is pretty self-explanatory; it shows the problem in personal finance … and that’s:

It’s called ‘lifestyle creep’ and is one of the key reasons why the actual wealth of high-income earners (as indicated by the grey shading between the green income line and the red expense line) is not necessarily that much higher than that of some medium- (or even low-) income earners.

The obvious solution, according to Joe and many other pf bloggers, is to reduce your spending:

This way, you decrease the red expense line relative to the green income line …

… in the process, enlarging the grey-shaded area between the two lines i.e. allowing, at least in theory, even low-income earners to increase their wealth!

The problem with this strategy is that saving – especially, saving more (probably a lot more) than you do now – is really, really, really hard.

Austerity hurts. Austerity is against nature (well, my nature).

It gets worse: saving now so that you can spend later simply doesn’t work!

To make this type of cookie cutter personal finance plan actually work, you need to be debt-free and be able to live on just half your current annual income for your whole life.

In other words, you need to drop the red savings line to no more than half the green income line … not later, but now … and keep it there for the rest of your life.

Never fear, I have a better plan …

… it’s one that is far more natural, because it allows you to maintain your current standard of living, even increase it over time:

Let’s say that you start off as an average-income earner; here are your steps to success:

1. You can start to save a little, perhaps more than you have done in the past. Don’t worry, this austerity is temporary … after all, you already know how I feel about too much belt-tightening.

2. Once you have a little money beginning to pile up, you should find a way to put it to use to help you grow your income. Perhaps you could: start a part-time business; buy an ‘absentee-owner’ franchise; or open a car wash. You could work a little smarter and score that big (or little) promotion. Maybe you could collect a windfall: a tax refund; find a rich aunt who dies and decides not to leave all her money to her cat after all; or, you get really lucky and hit a small jackpot at Binions.

3. As your income grows, you should increase your spending by no more than 50% of your after-tax ‘pay rise’. The rest must go back into your little pile of money. Then you should concentrate on finding even more ways to put it to use to help you grow your income. Are you beginning to see a pattern here?

4. As your income grows at a (much) faster rate than your spending, you will slowly begin to see that you are actually already tending towards saving 50% of your income without even trying!

Keep it up for 15 to 20 years, and you’ll be able to sustain that savings rate all the way through – and beyond – retirement, as you build a big enough bucket of wealth (your net worth) as shown by the green-shaded area between your income and expense lines.

What’s more, this fully sustainable standard of living is always more than your current standard of living, so you never, ever need to tighten your best. The secret with this plan is that you simply don’t loosen your belt as fast as other high-income earners tend to do.

Obvious, really …

Now, that’s what I call eco-friendly finance 😉

[You can also read this post in the Carnival of Personal Finance:  http://wealthpilgrim.com/carnival-of-personal-finance-happy-days-are-here-again-edition ]

# Tin Stacker or Kite Flyer? Which one are you?

I fly kites and I stack tins. But, I mainly fly kites. And, it’s all because I understand the true value of money.

Do you? Let’s find out …

The money that you save has a value today and a value in the future.

Aside from money that you save as a short-term buffer against emergencies, or to pay for a trip or other expense coming up soon, the real value of money that you save today is the value that it can provide tomorrow.

But, the ‘tomorrow’ that I am talking about is the one that comes on the day that you decide to begin Life After Work. Some call this retirement; others call it semi-retirement; I call it early retirement … but, that’s really up to you.

So, a dollar today is exactly that: One Today Dollar.

But, in the future, two things happen to that dollar:

1. Inflation erodes it – robbing it of roughly half its value every 20 years, and

2. Investment returns grows it – increasing it according to the annual compound growth rate of that asset class.

With inflation pulling one way (down), you need to find an investment that moves the value of your savings the other way (up); how fast you need to move depends on (a) how much money you need (your Number) and (b) when you need it (your Date).

So, how fast do different types of investments grow?

Well, according to Michael Masterson in his book Seven Years To Seven Figures:

[AJC: The greater the returns – that is, the lower down the table – the more ‘actively’ this table assumes you will manage the asset e.g. you may only be able to achieve 15% returns on stocks if you follow a system such as And, without active management – e.g. rehab’ing, flipping; leveraging; etc. – real-estate may only keep pace with inflation]

That’s why the Future Value of \$1 could be \$100, in just 10 years, if you invest it in a business.

But, that same \$1 could be worth only \$1.45 in 10 years, if left in CD’s. Now, that’s before inflation …

If inflation runs at its historical average of 4% \$1 is only worth \$1 in 10 years, 20 years, or 40 years!

So, when Brooke says:

create the proper mindset. then its time to move on to more advanced lessons.

I whole-heartedly agree.

EXCEPT that the “proper mindset” that she – and most others – talk about is saving, paying off debt, saving, living frugally, and … saving.

Which is great, if you value every Today Dollar exactly the same as a Future Dollar.

But, I don’t.

And, neither should you … and, here’s why:

The very first thing that you should do when you are thinking about saving is think about:

How many Future Dollars do you need, when you stop work / retire?

I’m guessing that Number’s at least 20 to 40 times your current expenses, doubled for every 20 years that you are prepared to wait.

[AJC: Ironically, the less you are willing to risk to grow each Future Dollar now, the higher the multiple that you will need e.g. if you are content to keep your savings in mutual funds, then you will need closer to 40 times your current expenses, doubled for every 20 years that you are prepared to wait. If you are prepared to actively invest in some mixture of stocks, real-estate, and/or businesses, then you may only need 20 times]

How much is that for you?

I’m guessing it’s much more that you previously thought.

Now, what has any of this got to do with either flying kites or stacking tins?!

Well, when you save, is it going to be so that you can line each Today Dollar that you collect by saving into a nice Today Dollar Tin with all of the others that you get, until you have enough to oil, salt and close … putting it away, with all the other tins that you collect in your working life until – in 20 or 40 years time – you pull all of those tins out of the Tin Storage Bank, dust them off, and find …

… exactly as many Future Dollars as you had Today Dollars, no more no less, and not enough?

Or, will you take each Today Dollar, and when you have enough, make a Future Dollar Kite (it can be a Business Kite, Real-Estate Kite, or possibly a Stock Kite) and let it soar?

And, if it crashes – when it crashes, because of storms and, well, kite-flying whilst you are learning is risky – will you then take a few more of your Today Dollars and make another, and another …

… until one flies, with each Today Dollar used in making it becoming 100 Future Dollars?

[AJC: Most likely, you will also be putting aside a few Today Dollar Tins of your own, for a rainy day – since it need not take many to make a few Kites, and you may as well save something whilst you are at it]

Tin Stacker or Kite Flyer? Which one you choose is up to you …

But, I must warn you – even though most of you are tin-stackers by nature, therefore, should not be surprised when your Future Dollar stock is well short of what I would consider a ‘nice retirement’ – I write solely for the kite-flyers out there!

# A dollar saved is a \$100 earned …

If you read this blog often enough, you may be forgiven if you leave with the impression that saving is not important.

Of course, you would be wrong!

It’s just that enough is written elsewhere about saving – too much – that little is left for me to say here.

So much, in fact, is written about saving, that you would also be forgiven for thinking that it’s the Holy Grail of Personal Finance.

It isn’t …

But, if your aim is to begin Life After Work (a.k.a. early full/part-retirement) as soon as possible, then every dollar that you save now has a far greater meaning than you may, at first think.

Firstly, though, you have to eradicate from your mind the idea that each dollar that you save is to be closeted in the warm confines of your bank, perhaps sitting shoulder to shoulder with your other dollars in a 5 year CD, locked up like sardines in a tin can waiting for the day that the lid will slowly curl back, only to be quickly consumed.

Equally, you have to eradicate from your mind that the “invisible dollars” scraped from the top of your paycheck and secreted in the mysterious 401k will somehow pop up just when needed to save your retirement, like an airbag in a crash …

No.

It’s clear – at least to me and my long-time readers – that if you need a Large Number / Soon Date (that means, retiring early with a large enough bankroll to happily sustain you until your family finally decides to park you in some nursing home for the remainder of your drool-filled days), then you need to actively manage your money.

Perhaps you need to start a business? Or, you should start rehabbing some houses to build your rental portfolio? Maybe, it’s time to plunge head-first back into that Blue Chip Lottery called the stock market?

Whatever your ‘investing poison’, it should be clear (perhaps with the aid of a few minutes and a simple online compound growth rate calculator) that you need to actively work to gain Very Large Compound Growth on your Net Worth.

So, the value of each dollar saved now is not the paltry 5% to 8% return that others expect, passively watching their CD’s and Index Funds match-racing with Inflation …

… rather, it’s the value of using those dollars to build a small war-chest (OK, a modest level of seed-capital, may be more apt for most of us) that allows you to get started on your business / real-estate / stock-based plan.

And, it is every dollar that you add, or reinvest instead of spending, that helps to fuel the flames of growth.

Once you start to see the value of saving though the spectacle of building a modest pool of funds-for-investing, you begin to realize that every dollar that you save today is really the same as \$100 in a mere 10 years timeif invested in a business.

If you don’t believe me, here it is in black (well, blue) and white:

So, slash those Coke Zero’s from your diet and start drinking tap water and, before you know it, you (too) will be a semi-retired multimillionaire, sitting on a beach in Maui …

Now, how do you feel about saving?
.

.

# The only personal finance chart you need …

When I’m not blogging, you can often find me hanging around on Quora, the brilliant question and answer site …

… and, that’s where I found Chris Han’s personal finance chart (to the left).

Chris says:

1. Wealth is the shaded area in the diagram.
2. You can increase the shaded area by increasing the slope of the green line, or by decreasing the slope of the red line.
3. Decreasing the slope of the red line becomes significantly harder over time as you grow accustomed to your lifestyle.

Chris is right, but he needs to add a 4th bullet-point, and it’s the same observation that I made when I used a similar chart in this post to explain how businesses should manage their finances for growth:

4. Notice that it is easier to grow Wealth dramatically by increasing the slope of the green Income line than it is to decrease the slope of the red Expense line.

So, let’s break this down …

Regular personal finance will tell you to concentrate on the red (expense) line.

These authors will say that frugality, paying yourself first, and debt reduction (thereby, reducing your interest expense) will increase your wealth through the combined effect of:

– Decreasing expenses, and

– Time.

Decreased expenses allow you to save more, and time allows the full effect of compounding.

Voila! 40 years to fortune!

But, I think that you give up too much for too little, if you follow their advice:

First of all, you give up too many of life’s little pleasures now for little-to-no-reward later (if you can’t afford the lattes now, you sure won’t be able to in retirement).

Next, you have to wait – hence work – for far too long.

Instead, you should focus on the line that they are missing: the green (income) line. If you take my advice, you will concentrate on:

– Using that increased income to build up a larger investment pool, quicker,

– And, aim to get better returns (hence, even more income) through better – and, more leveraged (i.e. using even more debt) – investments

Of course, you can’t simply ignore expenses, but they are best kept in control through delayed gratification, which means:

– Waiting to make purchases; the more major, the longer you should wait, and

It is this combination – increased/reinvested Income and controlled/slow-growth Expenses – that can quickly create a huge wedge of Wealth.

This is a very useful chart … you will do well to remember it.

# Where’s the emergency?

When you get pulled over by the police for speeding, they often ask: “Where’s the fire?”

And, when anyone tells me that they have 3 to 12 months living expenses sitting in a CD, I have to ask: “where’s the emergency?”

The assumption is that you will have unexpected expenses at some time in your financial life, and you will have to come up with a way to fund them without having to sell the kids or the dog … but, definitely not your boat!

So, the questions are: Do you need an emergency fund? If so, how much should it hold?

Today Forward presents an interesting way to look at how much to hold in your Emergency Fund:

According to the author:

If you have a full year’s worth of expenses set aside, only once every 33 years would an emergency come up that would wipe out these reserves.

Basically, you look at the chart to see how often you would tap out the fund according to how large the fund is (i.e. how many months of expenses do you have set aside as an ’emergency fund’?):

• 0 months = 100%, guaranteed to have problems
• 1 month = 70% chance (or every 17 months)
• 2 months = 49% chance (or every 2 years)
• 3 months = 31% chance (or every 3 years)
• 6 months = 10% chance (or every 10 years)
• 1 year = 3% chance (or every 33 years)

But, these are hypothetical numbers; what is the real-world chance of an emergency cropping up?

Well, the Pew Research Center set out to find out the answer to that exact question …

… and, it was 34%

Only one in three of the 2,000 families surveyed had a ‘financial emergency’ in the past year.

Combining that with the graph above, and it would seem that you would need about 3 months living expenses set aside.

However, I think it’s also important to answer one more question: how much will the average ’emergency’ cost?

Well, the Consumer Federation of America found the figure to be surprisingly low:

Households … typically report unexpected expenditures annually of only \$2,000.

What are these unexpected (or ’emergency’) expenditures?

The Pew Research study found they typically fell into the following major categories (which add up to more than 34% because many families reported more than one category as having occurred in the same year):

Given that the chance of an ’emergency’ is so low (34% in any one year), and the reality is that most are affordable (~\$2,000 in any one year), why carry an emergency fund at all?

Let’s take a closer look …

Let’s say that you earn \$50,000 and pay 25% tax. Since you keep an emergency fund, let’s also assume that you save 20% of your take-home. That means that a 3 months living expenses ’emergency fund’ for you is around \$7,500.

Since you’re going to need to keep it in a CD (earning just 1%) instead of investing it (8%+), you are giving up at least 7% interest (or, \$525 in Year 1) compounded.

On the other hand, you have a 34% chance of having an ’emergency’, which will then cost you \$2,000. Where will that money come from? Well your break-even point on that expense, if you had to borrow it, would be 26%.

So, borrow it on your credit card for all I care!

[AJC: Actually, I do care … the key is to have a plan to pay it off within 12 months; if you do, then a 0% card set aside for exactly that purpose would be ideal. Borrowing against your home via a HELOC would be OK, too, as would borrowing against your 401k. Sure you wouldn’t like to do any of these things, but you are dealing with the unexpected so a little short-term discomfort is probably OK]

Now, the reality is that if you were merely going to stick the \$7,500 in an index fund, and earn an extra \$500 or so, then I would say just go for the emergency fund … for your peace of mind.

But, why have it lying around earning next to nothing, when it could be the seed capital for your new business or the deposit on your first piece of investment real-estate?

Oh, and if you’re worried about the possibility of losing your job, well, don’t (unless you have GOOD reason to) …

… I’m not sure how different these numbers are in the USA, but if you live in the UK (according to MetLife) you have only a 6% chance of losing your job in any one year. And, when you do, you have a 30% chance of getting a job within the next 3 months, or close to 100% chance in the next 9 months.

Rather than putting your retirement at risk by setting aside too much money for an event that has only a small chance of occurring, realize that:

1. Your money is always better off working for you, and

2. While you are able to work, you can always borrow (and pay back) enough to recover from any financial catastrophe that the typical emergency fund is large enough to cover.

That’s why, at least in my mind, the best defense is always a good offense 🙂

# The 2-Step Wealth Generation System

This is one of my favorite posts; a great place to start for new readers, especially if you follow the links …

________________

The traditional approach to paying off debt and personal finance (interchangeable terms, it seems, according to the popular media) is simple:

1. Tear up your credit cards : pay off debt : get new credit cards : goto 1.

3. Save 10% : use to build an emergency fund : dip into emergency fund : goto 3.

What is the point of all those “goto”s, you may well ask?

Well, ‘goto’ is an inelegant way of writing computer code … it’s something that programming dinosaurs used back in the Dark Ages [AJC: when I used to work in the computer industry; they had ‘mainframes’ in those days].

And ‘goto’ here means that each step in the traditional personal finance investment plan (as in the sample plan, above) is iterative …

… it never ends.

You never really get out of debt, human nature being what it is (self-defeating, or everybody would be debt-free). You never really get rich, making money being what it is (really hard, or everybody would be rich).

Here, instead, is \$7 Million 7 Year’s Patented 2-Step Wealth Generation System:

1. Start Investing

2. Deal with emergencies as they arise

Of course, you will immediately see the flaw in the above: I haven’t created a debt reduction strategy, an emergency fund, or a pay yourself first plan.

That’s simply because, if you follow my patented 2-step plan, you won’t need a separate debt reduction strategy, an emergency fund, or a pay yourself first plan!

Here are the principles upon which this strategy is built:

1. Paying off debt is investing

In previous posts, I’ve outlined my cash cascade; it works much better than any debt snowball, debt avalanche, or any other debt reduction strategy you’ve ever read about, because every single one of those ‘other’ plans works on the flawed assumption that debt is bad, therefore should be paid off as quickly as possible.

The reality is that 75% of your net worth should always be working for you … at the best possible after tax interest rate (taking your personal attitude to risk – and, your affinity to / aversion against certain types of investments – into account).

Keeping in mind that a dollar saved is EXACTLY the same as a dollar earned:

– Paying off a 13% (after tax) credit card instead of buying a 1% (after tax) CD certainly makes sense.

– Paying off a 4% APR (before tax benefits) home mortgage instead of investing in an income-producing property that may return 7.5% cash-on-cash (after tax benefits) does not.

2. Creating an emergency fund is your first emergency

Let’s say that you create a \$10k emergency fund; let’s also say that this fund is big enough to cover all likely emergencies.

Haven’t you just created your worst case outcome?

That is, haven’t you just depleted your investment fund by \$10k?

And, if you didn’t have the ’emergency fund’ in place, isn’t that exactly what you would otherwise only needed to have done, but only in the event of an actual emergency?

Wouldn’t it be better, instead, to invest that \$10k so that it is always working for you, emergency (very unlikely) or no emergency (very likely)?

But, how would you deal with emergencies ‘as they arise’?!

Well, you could simply create a source of borrowings that you can tap into only when needed (e.g. a line of credit against your home; a redraw facility against your 401k; a 0% APR credit card, sitting there – unused – just for this purpose).

If you just start investing, you will soon want to become successful by investing more and more.

And, it won’t take you long before you you are cutting costs, paying off your credit cards, putting more and more aside, reading everything that you can about personal finance and investing, and so on …

… simply because you will want to invest more. It’s exciting and addictive.

That’s why these two simple steps will change your life, forever.

Go ahead, try it: my 2-step plan comes with a Lifetime 100% Compounded Money Back Guaranty 😉

# Stuffing the income genie back in the bottle …

As I said in my last post, I think it’s ironic that the time that you think about income the most is when you don’t have any.

And, that’s usually because:

– You’ve lost your job, or

– You’ve retired.

And, the second one only becomes an issue if – like most people – you haven’t really thought about how much income you DO need when you are retired. For example, this 2006 AARP survey (rather depressingly) showed:

One-third of workers (31%) have not yet saved any money for their retirement; 26% admit they are not confident they know how to determine how much money they will need to live comfortably in retirement.

… and, this is before the 2008 global meltdown!

Unfortunately, for most people, the retirement income decision is made in two entirely unrelated sets of decisions:

1. How much income will you have pre-retirement?

This one is not really a decision for most of us: most people receive an income that is simply based on opportunity.

For example, you are presented with a new career opportunity; it may come from an employment ad you happened to see in a newspaper, or somebody contacted you (a friend, a headhunter), or it may be forced on you by a down-sizing at one company that leads you to start looking seriously.

In any event, you think you are lucky, because you score a new job with a 20% pay increase over your previous job!

But, you are not really lucky, because of the second – almost totally unrelated – decision that you then need to make:

2. How much money will you have in your nest-egg when you retire?

This one is really a function of:

a) Time: i.e. how long do you have until your retire – or, are forced to retire (through job loss, injury, circumstance)?, and

b) Accumulation Rate: i.e. what % of your income are you willing – and, able – to save?

The two choices are not entirely unrelated, as I previously claimed, because most people save a fixed % of their income (e.g. 2% with an employer match of some sort) into their 401k; presumably, this increases as your income increases.

But, virtually nobody – and, I mean nobody – really works backwards and says: “if this is my income today, and it grows at least with inflation – or more, if I am really clever and opportunistic – what does that mean at retirement?”

You see, post-retirement income is usually a function of pre-retirement income, give or take 20% or 30% according to most experts.

If you want to scare yourself, try this little calculation:

1. Take today’s income and then scale it up to an income that you realistically aspire to; for example, what income would you realistically like to have in 20 years time?

2. Double that number, because in 20 years (due to the effects of inflation), you’ll actually need double that amount.

3. Now, multiply that new number by 20

That, according to the Rule of 20, is how much you will need to have in your nest egg if you want to retire in, say, 20 years time.

I’m guessing that this will be a Big Scary Number.

So, let me give you two choices:

A. Control your income NOW so that you don’t have to worry about it in retirement

This is the frugal [read: boring, yet sensible for most people] way and it has two major benefits:

– By controlling your income now (i.e. not increasing your income dramatically), your frugality allows you to lower your final pre-retirement income expectations as well. When you plug these nice, conservative, frugal numbers into the above calculation you, hopefully, come up with a Slightly Less Scary Number.

– But, this doesn’t mean forgetting about opportunity …. no, absolutely the opposite is true: you still chase all of those increased income opportunities, but instead of spending more when you are lucky (!) enough to land one, you save – a lot – more, which gives you even more chance of reaching that Slightly Less Scary Number.

B. Put your income earning capability into overdrive

But, what if you could reach that Big Scary Number

Why, then you would be able to earn and spend as your income grew, and you would be able to keep spending outrageous sums of money (at least, that’s how it would seem to lesser mortals) even in retirement.

But, how can you do that?

Well, rather than focussing on cutting costs, you focus on controlling costs. But, far more importantly, you focus on ways to increase your income …

… ways to increase it even more than you previously had your sights set on (i.e. in question 1., above).

Of course, you then don’t spend the extra income, instead you save it … saving at least half of all future salary increases.

Not only does this allow you to rapidly accelerate your savings (dramatically bumping up the size of your eventual retirement nest-egg), but it also provides a huge income cushion allowing you to deal with short-term income setbacks by temporarily slowing your rate of savings (say, from 50% of your accumulated salary increases to a more ‘normal’ 10%) rather than compromising your underlying lifestyle.

The real safe wealth building secret is to:

So, what could you do to increase your income, even more than you have previously dared to hope?

Any one of a thousand things!

For example, you could chase even bigger work/business opportunities (that’s why I moved to the USA from Australia), or you could start a business (that’s why I left my high-paying corporate job), or you could do something ‘on the side’, or you could invest actively, or ….

This blog is obviously aimed at those who want to choose Door B.

And, far more importantly than greed, the real reason is that once you let it out (i.e. accept an income increase) it’s almost impossible to stuff the income genie back into that bottle …

… in other words, rather than trying to live frugally by focussing your financial plan on cutting costs and saving the little that’s left, it’s far better to prepare a plan that allows you to rapidly increase income and spending in a controlled manner, so that you can build in the buffers that allow you to preserve your lifestyle should things go wrong.

But, which option would you choose?

And, what would you do do if dramatically increasing your own income actually became a financial imperative?

.

.

# Why are professional athletes so horrible with money?

In 2009, Sports Illustrated observed:

78% of NFL players and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt within two years of leaving the game.

From this Get Rich Slowly concluded:

Many professional athletes are horrible with money.

Why does this occur?

Investopedia in a recent article stated the obvious:

Athletes have a unique problem that many other professions don’t: the earnings window is small. While the more traditional careers may allow a person to work 30 to 50 years, a professional athlete will work only a fraction of that time. This leaves the retired athlete with the job of managing what they have to last for the rest of their life with only a fraction of their old salary being earned.

Whilst I agree with GRS that many sports players are horrible with money, this is simply an undistributed middle fallacy of the type:

1. All students carry backpacks.
2. My grandfather carries a backpack.
3. Therefore, my grandfather is a student.

In other words, this problem is not isolated to athletes … they are just one class of people who have highly skewed earnings.

Others include anybody with what I call “Found Money”, which is my term for any one-off (or otherwise time-limited) sudden influx of cash. For example:

– Anybody who signs a major contract (athletes, musicians, actors, celebrities, even sales people or small business owners who “land that once in a lifetime deal”)

– Anybody who wins a substantial sum

– Anybody who inherits a substantial sum

… and, so on.

The Horrible Money Management Syndrome, that Get Rich Slowly incorrectly attributes to athletes, actually comes with the sudden influx of money i.e. it’s a problem with the source, not the recipient.

For example, there are lottery winners from all walks of life, yet the operators of the UK Lottery found that, on average, lottery winners had spent 44% of their winnings after just 2.5 years, which supports the anecdotal evidence that 80% will be entirely broke in just 5 years after winning a major lottery!

Whilst some sharp wits may observe that this is “because the qualifications for playing the lottery are being ignorant of the principles of mathematics” [AJC: for example, as one blogger recently observed, you are more likely to die from melting underwear than winning the lottery], my theory is that …

you need to learn the lessons slowly on the way up, in order to stop yourself learning them the hard way on the way down.

In case any of you are planning to make a lot of money quite suddenly [AJC: even faster than \$7 million in 7 years ‘suddenly’], you would be wise to heed the lessons that I taught my children when they were still very young (and, follow to this day):

When they get money [AJC: Any money: an allowance, a gift, find it on the street, etc.] half goes into Spending and the other half into Savings.

So, too, does it go for you: anytime that you get any additional money [insert ‘found money’ methods of choice: you’re a professional athlete; you win the lottery; you get a pay increase; a second job; loose change that you save out of your pockets; a gift; a manufacturer’s cash rebate; tax refund check; etc.; etc.] you Spend half and you Save half.

At least, this is advice that will tide you over until I share my Found Money System with you …

… next time 😉