The Ultimate Gift – Part II

If Monday’s post didn’t spur you to start early, this one sure should!

First, here is something that will upset you if you are already 55 and figure that you need another 10 years to retirement:

Not bothered?

Well, let’s see if we make the same comparison, starting with a much earlier retirement age:

If you used to think that a lifetime of work was good for you, think again – this chart [AJC: the blue line is the important one] shows:

The longer you work, the shorter you live!

From another article:

Generally, it is found that people retiring early live more, but how long do they live? Or what is the average number of years they live after retirement? Well, now 49-50 is usually not considered to be a retirement age in most countries. However, if a person plans everything well and retires at the age of 50, he is expected to live for at least another 35-36 years, which increases the life span to almost 85-86 years! People retiring in their early 50s, normally live up to their late 70s or early 80s and people retiring at their early 60s, live till their early or mid 70s.

We had a pretty important reason to aim to Get Rich(er) Quick(er) i.e. so that we could have the time and money to finally live our Life’s Purpose …

…. but, if you don’t have a clearly defined purpose, then let me give you just one real clear, real simple reason to get Rich(er) Quick(er):

If you retire before 50, you will live 20 years longer than if you wait for normal retirement age.

No longer is the idea that “business/investing is too stressful … I’ll just wait it out in my nice stress-free post office job” valid …

…. I don’t care whether you intend to retire with $1 million or $10 million, as long as you reach your Number much sooner than you otherwise would.

By reaching my Number at age 49, I not only gave myself the gift of finally having the means to truly live my Life’s Purpose, but I also gave myself the gift of 20 years extra in which to live it …

… this, too, is my gift to you.

Don’t waste it!

The Ultimate Gift – Part I

There are lots of reasons to read this blog but, in this special two part post,  I am going to give you the ultimate gift …

… I’m going to add 20 years to your life!

After all, what good is life after work (a.k.a. retirement) if you die soon after?

[AJC: we can thank TraineeInvestor for this link – the inspiration for these posts; yet another reason to keep a close eye on the comments to my posts 😉 ]

More on that on Wednesday …

Today, I want to give you just one – important – reason for starting your own 7m7y journey while you are still in your 20’s; according to 林星雄 博士, a Chinese-American engineering Phd:

The Nobel Laureate, Dr. Leo Esaki, indicated that most of the great discoveries and innovations by the Nobel Laureates occurred at the average age of 32 even though the Nobel prizes were awarded 10 or 20 years afterwards. Furthermore, Dr. Esaki indicated that the peak creativity of most scientists occurred around the age range of 20 to 30 years. As one gets older, the experience increases but the creativity decreases steadily with the age.

It is, therefore, very important to stimulate, encourage and cultivate many young people to get interested in science and engineering at their young age and to provide the optimal R&D environment for these very powerful young scientists and engineers to unleash their very strong creativities during their most precious and creative years around the age of 32.

Let me suggest to you two things, if you want to get rich(er) quick(er):

1. A fast track to wealth requires, over any other quality, creativity … the vision to start a business, or to find out-performing real-estate, or to be able to choose the star stocks rather than the dogs. In every endeavor in life, and none more so than wealth-building, does creativity matter.

2. It’s not just for scientists that “the peak creativity” occurs “around the age range of 20 to 30 years”, but for ALL manner of creativity.

In other words, if you want to get rich, you had better do your best to find that path during your 20’s, because the chances of you creating your fortune diminishes every year past the age of 30 or so.

Sure, lots of people have started businesses and become rich later in life (take me – and, my father – as but two minor examples), but if you now know that your optimum creative time is between 20 and 30, why would you wait?

I’ll give you a far more powerful reason to Get Rich, Start Soon (TM) next 🙂

You gotta know your customer …

If you’re in business, then you had better get to know your customer. I’m sure that you’ve heard that before, but what does it really mean?

The true meaning hit home for me not long after I received this unsolicited e-mail promoting a new rating service for bloggers:

For the first time, publicists will be able to research, connect and manage Social Media relations in a single integrated platform.  MyMediaInfo has scored thousands of blogs based on key metrics creating the MMI score.  A trial is available at or give us a call at (888) 901-3332 to speak to a product specialist.


Point 1 of getting to know your customer:

Bloggers are vain/curious … they want to know that their blog is being read, and how it rates against other blogs [AJC: c’mon … if you’re a blogger, you can’t tell me that you aren’t checking your site stats quite often!].

I’m no exception, so I click through to their web-site and am sent a confirmation message:

Thank you for registering for a free trial of MyMediaInfo. A product expert will call you within 1 business day to activate your account and provide a brief tutorial.


Point 2 of getting to know your customer:

Bloggers are shy; no way does a blogger want to hand over their personal contact details and phone number to anybody [AJC: except maybe the publisher of the New York Times].

Here’s what I said:

Uh, this is the internet and the world of bloggers … we stay semi-anonymous, so don’t expect a big take-up on providing phone numbers!
I recommend that you provide a trial link that speaks for itself and only requires an e-mail address to register … bloggers will only be interested in seeing how their own site ranks, anyway 🙂

You gotta know your customer 😉

If you’re also a blogger, would you have registered and given your phone number? Maybe you’re not as shy as me?

Do the rules need to change?

Please keep sending your questions and comments either via e-mail [ ajc @ 7million7 . com ] or via the comments; I answer as many personally and/or here as I can …

… for example, Mike asks:

Are your rules of thumb like making 15% year on year in the stock market still true in an environment when treasuries and inflation is so low?

One of the reasons pension funds are blowing up left and right is that there are assumptions on portfolio rises of 8% per year… so should you be pulling down those numbers of expected returns?

This is a great question … so much so, I’m wondering why anybody hasn’t challenged them before, considering the current market.

Yet, my answer would be – and was – and is:

We’re not concerned, here, with what stock markets are doing now, [not] like pension fund managers and traders are …

The reason is simple: we’re not trying to invest to achieve the greatest possible returns now, as traders and pension fund managers hope to achieve …

… we’re here simply to reach our [large] Numbers by our [soon] dates.

By ‘large’, we’re talking $7 million (give or take a few million) and by ‘soon’, we’re talking 7 years (give or take a few years).

We’re not talking this year, or even the next, or the next, or …. we’re totally focussed on that end result.

Besides, traders and fund managers who chase the market fail … and, fail miserably 🙁

Here’s what happens to ordinary folk who try and time the market, because they are worried about [temporarily] low returns or are chasing [temporary] high returns:

This shows that no matter what gyrations the market had over the last 10 years – as shown by the green area – the typical investor never managed to keep up – as shown by the blue area – not by a small margin, but by a HUGE CHASM, managing a return of only 1.87%

Think about it: the average investor (that’s you and me) only managed less than a 2% return, over the 10 year period 1998 to 2008, when the market returned over 8%.

That’s worse than simply sticking your money in the bank!

[AJC: to show it’s not just a function of the current market, this huge discrepancy also held true for Dalbar’s earlier study]

And, if you think that’s because the average investor is a know-nothing dolt and you can do better; here’s what professional fund managers managed to achieve:

2.7% … that’s the best that even the professionals could manage.


Because both professional fund managers and investors (yep, even those who BELIEVE that they are buy/hold long-term investors) switch in and out of the market, altering their strategy [AJC: a nicer phrase than greed and panic] as markets rise / and fall … obviously, timing things terribly.

That’s why when I talk about investing – and, the associated rules of thumb – I look at the average returns over a long period. I sometimes even advocate looking at the lowest average returns over a similar period.

Yes, if your Number is soon, then you will need to look up my references (they are sprinkled thoughout my posts) and choose more appropriate estimates and take your chances along with the rest of the speculating masses …

… but, for planning your Number and then acting out your strategy you can – and, probably will – do much worse than simply following my ‘rules of thumb’.

After all, I have made $7 million in 7 years – and, this blog is all about helping you do the same – using these exact, same strategies that I teach here.

* Footnote: in the interests of full disclosure, here’s what I told a reader on Monday:

I hope that everything here rings true; I try and give all stories from personal experience. But, not everything happened for me in a nice, clean order: for example, I only found out about the 20% Rule a couple of years ago.

Sometimes, I simply have no choice but to talk from personal experience about ‘rules’ that I found out about a little too late 😉

Is your home an asset?

I spend a LOT of time on this blog talking about your home, and rightly so; your home is often regarded as your single largest asset.

Or, is it?

TraineeInvestor reopens the debate with what I think is a really interesting – seemingly ‘throwaway’ – line in his comment to this post:

The overwhelming consensus of opinion on internet forums and blogs is that your home is not an investment. (There are even people who think it is a liability rather than an asset!!!).

The “overwhelming consesus” hasn’t made $7 million in 7 years, and probably never will 😛

But there is grounding to the home-not-an-asset way of thinking; for example, in this post I quoted Robert Kiyosaki who first told me that a home is NOT an asset [AJC: Unlike many others, I am not a Robert Kiyosaki detractor … Rich Dad Poor Dad was the first book that I ever read on personal finance and, at the time, it really opened my eyes to the value of financial education].

Here’s what RK said: 

  My Poor Dad Says   My Rich Dad Says
  “My house is an asset.”   “My house is a liability.”
  Rich dad says, “If you stop working today, an asset puts money in your pocket and a liability takes money from your pocket. Too often people call liabilities assets. It’s important to know the difference between the two.

Yet, paradoxically, TraineeInvestor also pointed to the exact opposite: study after study has shown that the wealthy own their own homes and the ‘poor’ do not!

So, what do I think?

Well – and, this may also SEEM paradoxical – I actually agree that a home is not  an asset in the sense that it doesn’t earn an income.

Of course, you could rent to yourself.

Tell me then, though, when do you – could you – ever realize the value in that ‘asset’?

Only if you sell (you never will); or, pass it on (it’s not an asset for YOU).

Yet, there is one way to realize at least part of the value of your asset (while you still need a place to live), and that is to release some equity by refinancing.

So, technically, I agree with the ‘non-asset’ thinking, which is why I ask you to at least minimize the equity in your own home to a mere (by Dave Ramsey standards) 20% or less of your current Net Worth (and, review annually).

I also advocate buying your first home – more for some ‘human nature’ reasons rather than strict financial reasons – but, nowhere in this blog have I ever said: “… then, upgrade it”! 😉

Why bother keeping up an esoteric “is your home an asset or a liability?” debate at all, when the only real question that you need ask yourself is:

Can I reach my Number if I buy my own home, then keep [insert ‘% of current home value’ of choice: 0%; 10%; 20%; 50%; 100%; other] tied up as home equity?

My standard advice is, YES … if:

a) I buy my first home (with whatever starting equity that my bank and I can agree on), then

b) [as soon as reasonably possible, start to] maintain no more than 20% of my net worth in that – or, any future – home as equity

c) and, reassess b) annually (against both my home’s and my own net worth’s current value)

Ultimately, the equity that you choose to keep in your home either helps you to reach your Number, or it doesn’t.

For most people, “reaching their Number” means amasssing ‘real’ assets in the range of millions of dollars. Logically, tying up valuable equity in something that can’t possible reach ‘millions of dollars’ in value is wrong, so why do it?

What does this all mean for you?

My ‘rules’ of home ownership are designed to give you the best chance to reach your Number by your Date.

Depending on how YOU choose to look at it, your home is either your single largest asset or single largest liability …

… the real point of this blog is to make sure that it doesn’t stay that way 🙂

AJC’s Secret Strategy?

Every financial ‘expert’ has a secret strategy …

… you know, the one that made them $1,000,000 simply by doing [insert: strategy of choice]; just try googling “how I made million” and you’ll come up with listings like:

How I Made $77 Million In Two Years & You Can Too by Vincent James

How This Kid Made $60 Million In 18 Months

How I made a million in 3 months.

How I made over $2 million with this blog

How I made my first million: Schoolboy entrepreneur

7million7years- How to make 7 million in 7 years …

How I made a million dollars investing in real-estate

One link is about making millions in real-estate; another through marketing your business; another through online businesses; another through promoting yourself via your blog, and so on …

In fact, you’ll find one guy talking about how to make $7 million in 7 years through commercial real-estate and business 😉

At least that is the vibe that I am picking up, if Ryan at Planting Dollars (who kindly mentioned my blog in this post about personal finance outliers) is representative of my readers:

There are two blogs in the personal finance arena that are obviously outliers.

Adrian at 7 Million 7 Years… How many people do you know that are worth 7 million? Adrian did it in 7 years and writes about his strategies that are, of course, not common sense and not mainstream. He advocates starting businesses and investing in commercial real estate.

Jacob at Early Retirement Extreme… He retired in 5 years via traditional work, lots of traditional work, and cutting his living expenses to the bare minimum.

I may have used real-estate (both commercial and residential) – fueled by very modest (at the time) business-generated cashflow – to make my first $7 million, and then actually selling the businesses to make my next … but, I also used stocks, negotiating, options, gold, and relationships to make a few more million, as well.

Starting a business and/or investing in commercial real-estate may be the exact wrong – or right – strategy for you to make your $7 million in 7 years, too.

It all depends …

First, though, if there’s any ‘secret’ to making millions, it’s to truly understand the game of financial roshambo:

Stocks have no intrinsic advantage over Real-Estate; Real-Estate has no intrinsic advantage over Business; Business has no instrinsic advantage over Stocks.

This applies equally to how you choose to earn your money, as well as how you choose to invest it.

In fact …

It’s the combination of what you earn (income) and what you do with it (invest) that provides the compounding that you need in order to reach your Number.

For example, if you put a little extra salt-and-pepper into your income-producing strategy, you may be able to back-off the gas a little with your investing strategy (as long as you have cultivated excellent MM101 habits, so that you don’t just piss it all away).

On the other hand, if you are subsisting on a meagre office-job salary, you may need to ramp up your income with a little side business and you may need to seriously ramp up your investment strategy with some RE and/or stocks.

Three examples:

– I pursued a high risk / high reward business strategy to generate the cash that I then invested in real-estate and stocks to allow me to reach my Number; to ensure my success, I chose to push the risk throttle by expanding my businesses internationally.

–  Josh has chosen an  even higher risk / higher reward income-producing strategy by trading ‘penny’ pharma stocks with ever larger portions of his Networth going into one or two ‘trading positions’; I advised him to put a portion of his ‘winnings’ into lower risk / lower reward investments such as buy/hold RE, Value stocks, Index Funds, or (dare I say it), Bonds or CD’s to ensure that he reaches his Number.

Mike has chosen  a high-income-employment path to producing the income required to fuel his investment strategy, but has chosen to ‘invest’ his Net Worth mainly in cash. I advised him to maintain his current earning capability, but ‘up’ his investment risk profile up the scale to, say, Index Funds so that he can then pretty much cruise to his Number.

It’s different for everybody …

In neither Josh’s nor Mike’s case does commercial real-estate or business need to figure greatly in their journey towards their Number.

And, it may not figure in yours 🙂

Hypothetical Mike … and, Beyond!

The story so far:

Hypothetical Mike (the hero of our story) has super income-earning powers (ranging between $250k and $350k p.a.) … his powers also extend to corporate high flying, not to mention having a super-strong handshake 😛

His mission: to amass $10 million within 14 years.

But, like every superhero, he has a weakness: he keeps too much of his current $1.7 million networth in cash … $1.3 million of it to be precise.

Cash is kryptonite to financial superheroes like Hypothetical Mike!

Does HypeMike – as he is known in superhero and rapper circles – need to fly higher and higher in order to fulfil his mission? Or, can he simply destroy that stash of kryptonite and let the natural laws of investing wisely take over?

In an unusual twist, we let the readers decide the outcome of this story …

For example, here is what Steve said:

What are Hypothetical Mike’s Talents and hobbies? Based on what he likes to do in his spare time. I might recommend starting a business, that could bring in an income and later be sold for a nice return. This could help him reach that goal quite well. It would be less like running a business cause it would be something he enjoys anyway.

If HypeMike were a mere mortal, I would agree with Steve: you and I should ramp up our Making Money 201 activities in an attempt to accelerate our income … 

… but, HypeMike already has his MM201 ‘money tree’ (i.e. his relatively high-paying job); coupled with his $1.7 million starting bank and his 14 year timeframe, he need leap no tall buildings to reach his Number.

A relatively mere 13.5% compound growth rate will do the job … PROVIDED that HypeMike doesn’t lose his main ‘super power’ i.e. his ability to keep earning superhero-like salaries.

Hypothetical Mike shouldn’t do ANYTHING to jeopardize his job, hence his income stream (e.g. moonlighting might be against company rules, or might distract him, tire him out, etc., etc.).

On the other hand, a number of readers commented that HypeMike’s money – merely sitting in cash – is his real problem. For example, Brad said:

If you are successful at running this business (you said you turned it profitable) then you should be in a position to negotiate larger and larger bonuses or equity ownership. Seems like THAT is what you are talented in. Don’t feel like you need to start investing in real estate or small biz because that is how OTHER people might have gotten rich.

I do agree that you should keep some cash positions if that makes you feel secure, but also to keep the bulk of your invest-able assets in at least an S&P500 index fund.

In my [AJC: emminently unqualified] opinion, Brad is 100% correct.

Hypothetical Mike should take a close look at Brad’s advice and follow it!

[Disclaimer: Brad is likely just as unqualified as I am to offer personal financial advice … always seek professional advice!].

A hidden risk of reward …

I have postulated before on the $5m5y Phenomenon: why is it that 80% of lottery winners, winning absolutely life-changing amounts such as $5 million (all the way up to $150 million) lose 100% of their winnings within 5 years?

Think about it, it’s a staggering amount of money: how would you even go about spending $1m+ a year for 5 years, starting from an almost zero spending base?

Jake hits the nail on the head for at least one of those reasons:

When you hit your number or are well on your way toward it, how do you deal with family that are not making progress to their number (or likely ever will get there).

Specifically, how do you keep a cordial relationship – i.e avoiding acting like a heartless a-hole but also avoiding being the family patsy / sucker who pays for everything.

If you are making good progress toward your number, you are likely very hard working, talented and lucky. Chances are that family members lagging behind are lacking one or more of those traits, often the one associated with hard work.

Yes, after the houses, boats, vacations, girl/boy friends, and Ferraris come the financial-vacuum-cleaning carpet snakes:

Your friends and relatives 😉

Having had [AJC: too much] personal experience dealing with exactly this type of issue, let me try and give you some random pointers, which you will need as your journey progresses:

Stage 1 – When you are still on your journey towards your Number

– Lie about your financial circumstances; the corollary is to keep your spending under control, which has the side benefit of actually helping you to reach your Number

– Complain about everything: business is bad, your investments aren’t doing as well as you hoped, and so on

– Take a preemptive step: actually try and borrow money from those most likely to put the hard word on you [AJC: don’t try too hard though, you don’t actually want to owe your relatives anything]

Stage 2 – Just as you reach Number

– OK, it might be difficult to hide behind a veil of poverty (unless you are some sort of miser); so, you will need to rely on the old “can’t confirm/deny anything” … this is best done by attitude rather than words: in other words, when one of your friends says “Frank’s really loaded now”, just smile wryly or – if you have to say something – try “don’t believe everything you hear”

– You could still try and borrow money from your relatives to “help pay some back taxes that I owe … nothing serious”; this works best if you also put a For Sale sign on your Ferrari.

– At least try and keep your post-windfall spending spree in check; and, it’s likely – if you’ve been following the advice on this blog – that your Lifestyle isn’t going to to take a big jump, rather you will not have to work to maintain it.

Stage 3 – Making Money 301

You have your Number, but you forgot to build into your chosen lifestyle a certain amount for ‘paying off the friends and relatives’ [AJC: if you’re still calculating your Number, now’s your chance to put something in there], what to do?

– You will have no choice but to do certain ‘good deeds of kindness’; for example, we paid for two tickets for family members to fly to the US to see us. We flew them coach, provided no spending money, looked after them generously while they were with us (we paid for all meals, etc.), but they were grateful.

– Keep these ‘acts of generosity’ few and far between, or they will be soon seen as ‘rights’ and you will end up wearing all the cost with none of the benefit.

– Simply accept it as a ‘cost of doing [family] business’ that you will be the one footing the bill at all family events; we find ‘prior engagements’ for as many of those family functions as possible: out of sight, out of our pocket.

– Give 30% to 50% (only for family … friends get no more from you than anybody else) more generously for gifts than others; it will be expected and there’s not much you can do.

– Ditto for tips; if they know who you are, you had better be a little more generous if you want to avoid your food being spat in.

– Listen politely but offer little when friends and relatives come asking you for ‘advice’ … they are really sounding you out to ask you for money (they will call it a ‘loan’, but you know it for what it really is); your only protection is preemptive (see above).

– You are far better off to be seen doing ‘good works’ and giving to charity; the aim is to be seen as a good role model and something that your good-for-nothing-freeloading-ex-friends-and-still-relatives can aspire to when they make their own money.

Just remember, unless you built a huge Charity Case Buffer into the calculation of your Number, you have no choice but to let your friends/relatives do the right thing and work on their own Numbers … unless, you no longer want to be able to live your own Life Purpose?! 😉