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:

Accelerate your income rapidly, but your lifestyle slowly!

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?



The problem with income …

I’ve been thinking a lot about income lately, which is ironic as I don’t have any right now (at least, not in the traditional ‘work for a paycheck sense’).

It’s also ironic because, when I did have an income, I didn’t worry about it at all:

Back in 1998, I had two businesses that, between them, managed to earn exactly $0 …

… what one business made (about +$5k a month), the other one managed to lose (about -$5k a month).

But, I wasn’t at all worried.

That’s because this break even scenario already took into account the cost of my (then) still-quite-basic basic lifestyle.

For example:

– I could deduct the cost of my cars as a business expense, so my business paid for those

– I could deduct the cost of my travel as a business expense, so my business (or the occasional consulting client) paid for those

– And, I could afford to pay myself a fairly basic (at least, for a guy with a family) $50k salary a year

So, with my combined businesses breaking even (after these expenses were taken into account), together with the fact that I could control my cost of living by delaying gratification (not to mention, my wife was still working and bringing in a decent income), I simply didn’t worry too much about earning an income.

But, all that changed when I started investing actively, and built up my first $7 million (in 7 years) fortune …

It changed for the worse!

Firstly, my cost of living increased. A lot.

Then, my wife stopped working. Of course.

And, my actively-generated income stopped. Because I sold my biggest business.

Now, I mostly have to rely on ‘passive income’ which is really just spending the money I have in the bank while I figure out how to make more money from investments than I spend on their expenses + the cost of my lifestyle.

And, that’s now a big number!

So, ironically, just when most people think that I have “f**k you” money, I have started to worry about income …

… simply because I have to create my own.

How about you? Do you worry about income? Why (or, why not)?

Real-estate: can you tell the difference?

I know when it’s time to give up the game: when you start dreaming about it.

Last night I dreamed that I was telling a group of people the difference between commercial and residential real-estate … the one – key – difference.

Don’t worry, because I’m going to continue blogging about personal finance, but I guess I should at least bring my dream into the the real world by writing about these two classes of real-estate here:

So, what is the difference between the two? That one, key difference?

Is it price? Is it purpose (you can live in one, work in the other)? Something else?

I think it’s all of those things, and more, but I think one reason stands out:

This is residential real-estate, these two houses [pictured above] are the same in every respect:

They look the same; they cost about the same; they will provide a similar standard of living … and, they will produce roughly the same investment return over time.

This is commercial real-estate, these two properties [pictured above] are the same in one very important respect, yet:

They don’t look the same; they didn’t even cost the same; they are totally different types of properties (one is an office, the other a small showroom and warehouse) …

… but, here’s the one thing that makes them identical, at least to an investor:

They will produce roughly the same investment return over time.

You see, residential real-estate is bought/sold/valued on the basis of its utility as a home, not an investment. So, while you can choose to live in it or rent it out as an investment … ultimately, it’s all about its desirability as a future home, street, neighborhood.

Residential real-estate is roughly valued by comparison to others like it, and is ultimately favored by investors for its future value …

… even though residential real-estate is considered a ‘safe, easy’ investment, it’s a sham ; a false promise based on comfort: we all know and understand (to a greater/lesser extent) the value of residential real-estate, because we live in it. Or, if not in ‘it’ in something very much like it, probably even in a neighborhood very much like it.

But, this is false and residential real-estate is actually the most dangerous form of real-estate investment because is is largely speculation; most of the return from residential real-estate is based on capital appreciation.

[AJC: there are exceptions, of course: defence housing, rural areas, and so on … generally, though, you are trading future appreciation for lower rents now. Cashflow positive real-estate does exist, it’s just than most people don’t know how and where to find it]

Commercial real-estate has the reputation of being difficult. Of course, it’s not: you purchase a property, you find a property manager, you rent it out, you collect the rents … nothing could be easier.

And, you are rewarded in the short-term: commercial real-estate is mostly about the income that you can derive from the property. It’s current and future value are simply a multiple of that return [the capitalization rate].

The returns are usually higher, per dollar invested, than residential real-estate (although, the banks will lend less against it); capital appreciation more certain; and, it’s easier to manage (tenants generally don’t trash the place; they pay most of the outgoings; they shoulder the lion’s share of the maintenance burden on the property).

Since most people are too scared to invest in commercial (so, they fight each other – in most ‘normal’ markets – to invest in residential real-estate) overall returns, in my experience, are generally much better.

What do you think they key difference is?

How to see the future …

A Get Rich Slowly reader shared his financial advisor’s advice when asked whether he should go with mutual funds or index funds:

“ 2008, as banks stocks were dropping rapidly, if they were a part of an index like the S & P 500, they were still held by the fund,  while a  manager of a fund could lower the funds exposure to this sector, thus attempting to limit the downside risk to the portfolio.”

This, of course, is a classic case of trying to time the market … and, we know what happens when anybody (except for Warren Buffett and a select few others who aren’t giving you their advice) try and time the market …

… for example, the famous Dalbar Study shows that people who attempt this reduce their returns from 11.9% to only 3.9%.

In their latest report, Dalbar says:

The unprecedented ups and downs of 2011 drove up the aversion to risk and investors succumbed to their fears. They decided to take their losses instead of risking further declines. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, this occurred just before the markets started on a steady trek to recovery.

So, the idea of ‘taking bank stocks’ out of your portfolio just as they are crashing is very enticing, but simply means that you also need to work out how to put them back in when they are climbing …

… and, if you really could pick when stocks are climbing or falling, you’d be off living the high-life in Monaco.

You certainly wouldn’t be selling your advice to us ordinary folk, now, would you? 😉

How to guarantee a higher return on real-estate …

About 10 years ago, my wife’s two nephews came to visit their “Uncle Adrian” to discuss potential investments.

They had decided to buy two apartments (in the USA, called ‘condominiums’) together – I advised them to buy one each, but they decided to go 50/50 on one, then another one a short while later.

I remember being quite proud of them, because they were both still in their early-to-mid-twenties at the time and were already investing in real-estate rather than taking the easy options of either not investing at all or speculating on stocks.

My wife’s nephews have since each married, and they each have two children under the age of 5 …

… and, they still own the two condo’s together.

I was taking one of my grand-nieces [AJC: makes me seem VERY old; I’m 53, which is only SLIGHTLY old] swimming this morning, and we got to discussing how the apartments are going.

My nephew-in-law said: “we’ve made a profit, but I don’t think they’ve been a very good investment”

Let’s examine this in a bit more detail, because I think it explains my last post quite well …

He (and, his brother) bought 2 apartments for about $200k each about 10 years ago; they are now worth about $400k each (they were worth as much as $500k each about 12 months ago, but prices have pulled back from their peak).

The apartments are still generating a small loss on a monthly income v costs basis, but he’s comfortable with a small level of negative gearing … and, he has an interest-only loan, so has not paid off ANY principal in the ~10 years that he’s owned 50% of each apartment.

He has calculated his return as about 7% (before tax) compounded, which I feel is pretty good but he feels that “opportunity costs” are such that he could have done a little better, elsewhere.

All in all, it doesn’t sound impressive …

… to him.

To me, the return is outstanding and explains what my last post is all about!

You see, I asked him how much (a) his loan is, and (b) how much cash he has put in so far (since the property has been making a small loss each month for 10 years).

He says that he put in a 25% initial deposit (interest-only loan), and has put (including the deposit), about $100k in cash (before tax costs/benefits).

This is how I think it breaks down (these numbers are now approximate):

– Property purchased for $200,000 (let’s assume this includes closing costs) with a 25% (i.e. $50k) deposit.

– Loan is interest only, so still stands at $150,000

– Total cash put in to date is $100,000 (made up of the $50k deposit plus another ~$50k negative-gearing losses over 10 years)

Now, let’s look at the analysis:

Cost to my Nephew-in-law:

1. $50k deposit

2. $50k losses

Profit if property sold today:

3. Property is worth $400k

4. Property purchased for $200k

5. Loan to pay off is $150k

Total Return:

6. Cash OUT is: 1. + 2. = $100k

7. Cash IN is: 3. – 5. = $250k

[AJC: notice that the price that he paid for the property doesn’t even figure – directly – into the equation; all that matters is what he owns (current value) less what he owes (current loan + the cash he puts in)]

This is no different to putting $100k in the bank (or some other investment) and getting $250k back after 10 years.

Using a compound growth rate calculator, this is  a 9.5% annual compound return, not 7% as first thought!

You see, he was making the common mistake of thinking that the apartment ‘only’ doubled in value in 10 years (from $200k to $400k, which is a still amazing 7% return in today’s depressed investment climate).

But, you simply need to look at how much cash you put in, against how much cash you get back out when you eventually sell (or, you can still do this calculation on the likely selling price, if you want to keep the investment) to find your real return …

… i.e. the less cash you put in, the greater the return.

It’s usually as simple as that!


How to manage your life with just $19 Billion …

After the recent Facebook float, how did Mark Zuckerberg fare, and – more to the point – how is he going to live?

According to the online business media:

The founder sold 30.2 million shares out of his entire holding, leaving him with a $US1.1 billion payout. It’s a huge amount of money, even after taxes, but it doesn’t come close to his final stake, somewhere in the region of $US19 billion.

So, the answer to the “how is he going to live?” question is: very well, thankyou!

Instead, let’s take a look at a hypothetical Internet business owner whose company IPO’d for mere millions in value, instead of Zuckerberg’s billions:

Let’s say that our hypothetical founder sold 30.2 million shares out of his entire holding, leaving him with a $US1.1 million payout. It’s a lot of money (let’s pretend that it’s after taxes), but it doesn’t come close to his remaining stake in his company, somewhere in the region of $US19 million.

How is our founder to live?

It would be tempting to say that he has $20 million, so a typical ‘safe withdrawal rate’ of 4% [AJC: which could be achieved through a combination of dividends and selling down small amounts of stock each year] would suggest that he has a massive $800k disposable income each year.

But, spending anywhere near $800k – even spending anything more than 25% of this amount p.a. – would be a huge mistake.

You see, the bulk of his money is in stock … and, risky stock at that: 5% of his net worth in cash and 95% in one relatively small, ‘hi tech’ company …

… and, we know what happens in tech: it can be boom/bust [AJC: remember MySpace, anyone?].

This is no different to an athlete trading off his contract, and spending money like it’s forever … except when it isn’t, which is why 78% of NFL players and 60% of NBA players are bankrupt within two years of leaving the game.

The second – less aggressive – temptation, then, would be to live off the dividends from the stock held …

…. let’s say that the company pays 2% dividends [AJC: which would not be unusual for a tech. company seeking to reinvest in itself, or acquire other companies, even though many – such as Apple – would pay zero dividends], which would deliver $400k per year.

But, again, what happens if the company stops paying dividends?

Instead, what our founder needs to do is realize that he is merely potentially very rich, but right now is a very valuable employee (and, controlling shareholder) of a company that is rewarding him with (a lot of) stock that may – or may not – one day convert to cash.

So, what our founder needs to do is count his blessings … I mean, assets:

1. He probably has a very healthy $400k+ annual salary, he should live off no more than 50% of this (indexed for inflation) and invest the rest.

2. He probably receives $400k in annual dividends; he should add 100% of these to his nest egg.

3. He has a starting nest egg of $1.1 million, which he should invest in ‘passive’ income-producing investments [AJC: real-estate is ideal for this]

As he starts to convert more stock to cash (i.e. through sale of small amounts of stock each year, as the law & his board may allow, and/or dividends) eventually, his nest-egg will grow to $4 million …

… which is his lifestyle break-even point i.e. the Rule of 20 says that your nest-egg should be 20 times your required annual living expense, which is currently $200k.

The good news is that anything converted to cash – hence, into passive investments – over $4,000,000 allows our founder to increase his annual living expense.

You’ll find that if you follow this system:

a) Sure, you’ll be living well below your ‘paper means’, but once you realize that your wealth is merely on paper, you’ll get over it, and

b) You’ll slowly-but-surely be transferring your ‘paper wealth’ into real wealth (i.e. passive investments), and

c) If you choose income-producing real-estate as your vehicle for holding your ‘real wealth’, you’ll pretty quickly find that you are able to support an even more quickly-increasing standard of living, no matter what happens to your tech company, and sooner than you may think.

This is how to bullet-proof your future …

… unless you’re Mark Zuckerberg, who can probably already survive on 4% p.a. of $1.1 billion 😉



How to ruin your return by paying off principal …

A while ago, I did a three-part ‘anatomy of a commercial real-estate deal’

Drew wanted to know:

You mentioned 63k income that you can spend, but I don’t see you including principle payments. Wouldn’t that cut into your cash flow?

You’ll need to go back and read the three-part article, but this question goes to the heart of whether to pay off your mortgage, and is somewhat the same argument whether you want to do this on an investment property or even your own home.

It boils down to return:

The building that I was looking at buying would have generated $255k in rents – $192k in expenses (including $130k bank interest) = $63k net ‘profit’ p.a.

Paying down principal doesn’t change that dramatically: it does lower my interest expense, which should increase my net profit, hence my return …

… in $$$ terms.

But, when you do the math, it can lower the % return  that I am getting on my money.

Aldo says:

Continuing with the comment from the previous reader, can you elaborate a bit more on why principal payments would not affect this deal? On the previous article you mentioned going for a 7yr financing or so, which will represent about 250-300k of additional capital you need to put each year. After the first year you would have invested 700 + principal (let’s say 250k) = 950k. The 63k you make then will become a 6.6% return on your own money… Then down to 5% the next year… And so on…

Aldo has forgotten to allow for the reduction in interest expense as my equity increases (and, the bank’s loan decreases), but he points to the % return on my overall investment decreasing …

… whereas, an investor should generally be looking to increase their % returns.

In simple terms: if I can buy a $100k property with 20% down (i.e. $20k), when I find (e.g. by saving) another $20k, am I financially better off:

1. Putting it into this property to pay it off quicker?

2. Putting it into my home mortgage to pay my home off quicker?

3. Putting it into another $100k property that I can buy with 20% down?

In order of decreasing return, it’s generally 3. then 2. then 1.

I know which I would rather do. How about you?



Poor little rich doctor …

A couple of weeks ago, I responded to a reader request from a young doctor who is on what can only be described as an OMG level of income:

I am a young physician (early 30s) making approximately 800k per year. After expenses and taxes, I am left with ~300k to save/invest.

Never mind the fact that he is losing approximately $500k a year in “expenses and taxes”, a $300k take home is still pretty good in anybody’s language!

There was plenty of well-considered reader debate and advice for the young doctor, including this highly-reasoned argument from traineeinvestor:

I’d suggest he continue to focus most of his energy on maintaining or growing his professional income. Time spent on side ventures and investments should be limited so that it does not interfere with the $800K professional income.

In terms of investments, given his time constraints, I’d go with a Boglehead approach, possibly supplemented with some geared cash flow positive real estate (especially if he lives in the US and can take advantage of depressed prices and long term fixed borrowing costs).

I agree on both counts:

a) When you are earning a super-high level of salary, your primary goal should be to protect that source of income. It’s a river of money: you should do everything in your power to keep it flowing!

b) However, you shouldn’t just let the money flow into the taxman’s pocket, then into yours, and then out again by increasing your spending. Instead (and in keeping with our ‘river’ analogy) you should also build a downstream dam.

And, you should only open the sluice-gates to let off a much smaller amount than is going into the dam …


Because that’s the only way that the dam gets to fill up!

This way, when the river stops flowing (ideally, at a time of your choosing i.e. early retirement, but it could be forced upon you even earlier for a variety of reasons), you can keep the sluice gates open, knowing that there’s still enough water in the dam to keep the flow running for the rest of your life.

In other words: you don’t want the dam to run dry before you do 😉

But, this is much harder to achieve than you may think, so here’s where I differ – but, only slightly – starting by reversing the order of traineeinvestor’s otherwise excellent investment strategy:

I’d go with a geared cash flow positive real estate approach (especially if he lives in the US and can take advantage of depressed prices and long term fixed borrowing costs), possibly supplemented with some Boglehead-type investments.

The reasons are two-fold:

Firstly, I’m not accepting that 62.5% (i.e. $500k) of our doctor’s $800k earning capacity can simply be wiped off in “expenses and taxes” …

… professionals are just sitting ducks when it comes to taxes.

But, by implementing a nicely geared (and, maybe even cashflow negative after depreciation allowances) real-estate strategy, there may be deductions that can legitimately increase his super-high professional’s take-home income, without falling afoul of the tax man.

This is a clear-cut case of where a professional’s advice can add huge value [AJC: not in asking “is real-estate a good investment for me” but in asking “is real-estate a good tax-advantaged but highly legitimate investment vehicle for me?”], and our doctor should not take another step without seeking such professional advice.

Secondly, he should go through every single expense with his accountant and see what he can reduce or better manage. Nobody can afford to burn $500k worth of dollar bills …

… not even a super-high-income doctor.

Secondly, real-estate (especially when prices are depressed) is just a great long-term investment.

With his $300k (and, hopefully much more once he implements some of his accountant’s tax and cost-management advice) cashflow plus any income that he receives from his tenants, the doctor can afford to leverage quite a large portfolio of such high-quality, long-term, income-producing investments.

And, it is this large portfolio that becomes his growing ‘dam’ of cash, trickling out at perhaps a $100k – $150k sustainable annual spending rate … one that he should be able to index with inflation and maintain for his whole life, whether he (one day, perhaps quite soon) chooses to work full-time, part-time, or not at all.

And, isn’t that the whole (financial) point of it all?

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 😉

How to become a wealthy doctor?

We all have this image of doctors. We believe that that they are all-knowing and well … rich.

But, is that really the case? Let’s check out what this young doctor (a new reader), David, has to say:

I am a young physician (early 30s) making approximately 800k per year. After expenses and taxes, I am left with ~300k to save/invest. However, I have been making ~40k for the majority of my working life and am completely overwhelmed as to how to handle this chunk of change (unfortunately I received no financial education in medical school…). Do you have any advice as to how and where I should allocate this money? I am worried about investing too much money in one source and would like to be fairly diversified.

You see, right here is where doctors go wrong!

Firstly, $120k – $250k net spending money p.a. [AJC: my estimate, depending on how the taxes and other expenses work out] is, indeed, quite a large “chunk of change” …

… especially when jumping from $40k starting salary.

So, the first mistake that most people in this situation make is to immediately increase their standard of living. Now, a conservative person won’t increase their living standard to $120k less 10% (because that’s what the books tell you that you should ‘pay yourself first’), but the chances are that they will raise their living standard quite dramatically.

The $40k quickly becomes $60k as they equip themselves with a new car and some extra furniture and a larger TV or two … then $85k as they move into a bigger apartment (with a view) … then $120k as they step into a more committed relationship and buy the house, school the kids, and so on.

In other words, the treadmill has a way of increasing its speed until you forget that you are supposed to be ‘rich’.

You see, David’s sudden increase in income comes under the heading of ‘found money’; I’ll post on it soon …

… actually, read it in reverse order (i.e. read the second article first).
Then, you can tell me what you think David should do?