You Deserve A Vacation

My wife and I just got back from a vacation weekend in Colorado. It was great. And no it’s not because of that. Sometimes it’s great to just escape “real-life” for a few days or a week and explore this amazing Earth.

The financial independence online community talks about budgeting, savings, early retirement all the time. One thing that we definitely don’t mention enough is that 8 letter word that can be so elusive to our busy daily lives – VACATION!

You work hard. You stay late to finish those deadline projects. You bus the kids from event to event. You deserve it. This must be what goes through the minds of normal spendaholics when they are at Best Buy spontaneously looking at a TV or at a car dealership deciding they want to trade-in their 3 year old car. For me and probably many of you who decided to click the link to this site – I am much more interested in experiences than in stuff.

Hanging Lake Trail in Colorado - a Lake in the middle of Glenwood Canyon at 7,000 elevation can be yours for the total of $0.00 - FREE!
Hanging Lake Trail in Colorado – a lake in the middle of Glenwood Canyon at 7,000 elevation can be yours for the total of $0.00 – FREE! Go enjoy nature. Great 2 hour hike.

Whether you go to China or camping in a national park a few hours away it’s good to get away sometimes. People can obviously shell out some serious cash for their trips half-way around the world to remote islands (now taking donations for my next & first trip to Bora Bora). But it’s obviously possible to have a great trip without spending tons of money too. Most national parks are $20 (or free), so don’t give me the excuse that you can’t afford it. I have some family & friends that don’t believe in vacation or believe that they can’t afford it. Sorry not gonna buy that crap.

It’s completely possible to vacate without breaking your financial plan. You just might not be able to go to Paris. Yet. But maybe someday.

The memories last a lifetime

Everyone has fond (and not so fond) memories of trips with family and friends. That time your brother farted in the car on the way to the Grand Canyon and almost made your dad crash because it was so ransid. Whatever it is, you will always have the memories. Or bring a GoPro – then you have the video to prove it too. One thing I will say is that I have gotten a bit better about just enjoying the moment. Too often we stand behind our camera or photo lens.

It helps you get creative

Whether you are stuck on a work problem, thinking through a career or personal crisis, or exploring potential new entrepreneurship itches. Sometimes getting away gives me an outlet to think about things I would have never thought possible.

Sometimes it’s okay to turn your brain off from regular daily life

There is a good reason some people get burnt out. Sure maybe they are just an unpleasant person that likes to bitch about everything. But just as likely, they haven’t taken a vacation in a couple of years. It’s okay for little Johnny or Suzy to miss a couple of soccer practices. And the office will survive without you. Work will be there when you get back.

You gain new perspective

This is a big one for me. Seeing different cultures opens our minds to different ideas and ways of life. So many of us in the FIRE community are focused on gaining financial independence early in life. I will always distinctly remember the moment standing on a bridge in Florence, Italy where the financial independence light flickered for the first time in my wife’s mind. We are two very different people, but I think that special moment helped her at least understand why I think it’s so important to be financially free (aka so we can go on badass trips like that one more often). Still working on that 🙂

So where’s your next vacation going to be? Be a little crazy and spontaneous. Or plan it out, sometimes that’s half the fun. Just remember we do only live this life once, so take full advantage.

-TFG

My 2016 Goals – April Update

Feeling left out since I'm a non-Cali financial blogger. HA!
Feeling left out since I’m a non-Cali personal finance blogger. HA!

FINALLY DONE WITH SPRING CLASSES. And it feels so good. The end of this last semester seemed to drag on forever and with the new job, I felt like I haven’t had any time to do much of anything around the house lately. It’s been really nice to catch up on stuff these last few days.

Become a Morning Person

No change from last month – so we’ll hold the status.

Still a work-in-progress because lately I have found late nights to be really productive time for me, especially with school. I would say I still get graded an “I” for incomplete on this one. Still a lot of work to do here.

Run 365 366 Miles this Year

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April was a good running month. I’m sure it was the furtherest farthest (yes, I’m good at grammar) I have ever run in a month because…

Run 2 10Ks & Run my first half-marathon

1 10K Down. 1 Half-Marathon Down.

First Half-Marathon Complete! I clocked in at 2:00:51 for my first 13.1 – which is about a 9:12 pace per mile. My initial goal, a while back, was 2 hours. I definitely reevaluated that lately because I felt like my comfortable running pace for long distances was a bit slower. With that said, I felt really good on race-day and didn’t really hit a wall until mile 12. Overall no complaints and I was very happy.

I’m taking it easy these next couple weeks, but I want to step back in and likely run another half-marathon this fall and push myself a little harder. So this goal may need to be modified for the better.

50 First Dates

A couple of fun trips to Costco and random going out for frozen yogurt lately has been the highlights here. I need to up my game, which should be pretty easy to do now that I have a repreieve from school. Our wedding anniversary is coming up and probably a long weekend trip, as well, likely to Denver.

Make at least $7,500 profit from side hustle-y things

No change here – falling off the pace for my initial 2016 $ goal, but there are only 24 hours in the day. Need to go on an eBay binge here pretty soon. If you list on eBay, you know what I’m talking about. One of those days where I just go hard and list stuff all day.

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Read at least 12 Books (yes, from start – finish)

In the middle of a couple of audio books right now. I’ve also thrown around the idea of running to audio books but haven’t done that yet. I’ll report back to see how that goes.

Increase Net Worth by 35% (About $65K)

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We are now on pace to beat our net worth growth goal for the year. Nothing really of note has occurred in the last month or so just the automated savings doing its thang. May might be a bit of a rough month, as we just got a new fence this week (ouch $$$$). But, that thing is nice and makes me really want to up my yard game.

Until next month!

-TFG

My 2016 Goals – Q1 Update

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It’s really hard to believe we are already to April this year. Time has flown and a lot has happened in the last 2 weeks months (ha – yes, I’m tired). We went to Hawaii, I’ve survived mid-terms for another semester, and I am finishing up the transition of an internal job change. The increased responsibilites will keep me on my toes and probably cause me to dial back a bit on some of these other priorities, but it’s a good career growth opportunity.

Now that I’m through a quarter of the year, let’s see how I’m doing on my original set of 2016 goals.

Become a Morning Person

Still a work-in-progress because lately I have found late nights to be really productive time for me, especially with school. I would say I still get graded an “I” for incomplete on this one. Still a lot of work to do here.

Run 365 366 Miles this Year

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Funny story, we actually found two mornings to run when we were in Maui in February. But it took me almost 3 weeks to have a good run after we came back – guess the runs just aren’t as scenic over here in Texas!

Run 2 10Ks & Run my first half-marathon

Ran a 10K at the end of March to gear up for an upcoming half-marathon. I shattered my personal best for a 6.2 mile run in 49:41 (8-minute flat pace!). It always helps when others are around to help keep a good pace because as you can see I am usually quite a bit slower than 8 minutes. In April, I am focusing on my half-marathon prep, which is actually later this month. So I fully expect slower times – probably in the 9:30 ish range. But I need to work the distance big time – so 55-60 miles is a really good goal for the month of April.

50 First Dates

Our trip to Hawaii, of course, was a great romantic getaway. Recently we have done some small trips with friends and family, but I definitely feel like I need to make this more of a priority in the next month or so. Lately, between the craziness of school and the busyness of a job transition its been tough. Things should start to settle down starting in mid-April and we need to find some great date ideas.

Make at least $7,500 profit from side hustle-y things

This goal has definitely fallen off the tracks a bit. Just not enough waking hours in the day (*cough* doesn’t help when I sleep in *cough). eBay and Amazon have just been small stuff because I haven’t found the time to list very much lately. As spring semester starts to slow down, I need to fix this. And garage sale season is gearing up to be in full swing – I need to get out there and buy up all the good stuff!

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Read at least 12 Books (yes, from start – finish)

Fail. Zero Books Completed.

Increase Net Worth by 35% (About $65K)

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Financial market wise – February & March were much more generous to us than January. Nothing out of the ordinary on my side really. I did take a slight increase to primary residence because the comps have been trending upwards and I wanted to keep my holding value in line (still pretty conservative). Up and to the right, exactly what I like to see!

How are your 2016 goals doing?

-TFG

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An Interview with Adam Carroll about America’s Student Loan Debt Crisis

I recently had a chance to interview Adam Carroll about America’s looming student loan debt crisis (it’s already here). If you’re not familar with Adam’s work, he is a professional speaker, has published multiple books and is a self-described financial literacy junkie.

I recently found Adam through one of his recent projects – Broke Busted & Disgusted, a documentary about the evergrowing student loan debt crisis and the impacts on the millennial generation and beyond. If you have an hour, I highly recommend checking out the movie.

I’m honored today to be joined by Adam.

TFG: What initially sparked your interest in personal finance literacy and specifically the increasingly important issue of student loan debt?

Adam: My interest in financial literacy was sparked by a mentor I met in my very early 20’s. He recommended several books to me and I took him up on every one of them. This guy was a multi-millionaire with a wealth of experience and I was going to do whatever he told me to do. The student loan issue became a passion of mine after presenting to hundreds of colleges and universities where students had no idea how much they’d borrowed or how much their payments were going to be. I felt like something had to be done and a documentary on the topic seemed like a logical step in the right direction!

TFG: I loved the term that one union worker in the film alluded to, “learn as you earn.” When I was in high school, I remember tons of pamphlets & fliers about going to college, but not so much when it came to trade schools & apprenticeships. What can we do to make sure young people aren’t feeling pressured into feeling like they HAVE to go to college to be successful in life?

Adam: This is such an important question. First off, parents need to realize that the economics of college have changed dramatically. It’s not possible to work to pay your way through school like many of them probably did. 75% of today’s full-time students work over 30 hours a week in addition to full class loads and STILL borrow to make ends meet. We have to change the societal norm that EVERY 18 year old should be in a four year school. Whether students pursue an apprenticeship, a 2 year program, a certificate, a gap year, or just plain old work experience, we have to celebrate the fact that they’re making decisions that will ultimately lead them down whatever path was meant for them.

TFG: Can you envision an America where financial literacy classes are required for college curriculum, or better yet high school and junior high?

Adam: Not only can I imagine it, I dream about it in technicolor. In my mind I can see exactly how to get young people super enthused to learn about money and being money savvy. Several schools in my area are using various methods to make this a reality and the results are astoundingly successful. The challenge today is getting the Department of Education, both locally and nationally to understand that teaching money should be one of the TOP priorities. Our country is dependent on the next generation being financially viable. Millions of 20-somethings that are hundreds of billions in debt is NOT the answer.

TFG: The film showed a graphic that 48% of students expected their parents to help with loan payments after graduation, but only 16% of parents expected to help with payments. It seems like there is a breakdown of communication in families across the country. What can they do to fix this?

Adam: Well, first and foremost, families need to be having the college conversation much earlier than they do currently. I’d venture to guess that the majority of families start thinking about and discussing paying for college right before a student enrolls. At that point the financial aid office is doing the majority of the educating, and as helpful as they are, families are leaving those appointments having signed up for a decade or more of debt repayments. Parents and kids need to have very honest conversations about what’s possible and what isn’t. At 18, these kids don’t know what’s good for them or not — tens of thousands of dollars in debt isn’t.

TFG: Student debt hit $1 trillion in the United States in March 2012, was around $1.3 trillion in 2015, and according to the student loan debt clock is rapidly approaching $1.4 trillion. Do you envision the student debt problem ballooning to the point where it could negatively impact the real estate market over a long period of time?

Adam: I think we’re there. In the coming months and years, we’ll see student debt borrowers not qualify for mortgages, car loans, and in some cases an apartment due to non-payment of student debt. When 1 in 4 loans are predicted to be in default in 2016 (according to the Congressional Budget Office), this will absolutely bleed over into our general economy. As of right now, we have no idea what kind of ramifications and repercussions could be felt.

TFG: College tuitions continue to skyrocket at record levels year over year. How do you feel about the government backing all student loans, including the private loans that banks give to students?

Adam: I’m diametrically opposed to the government backing student loans as if there is a big checkbook in the sky to guarantee all of these. In my opinion, if you are pursuing an education degree that will pay around $40,000 a year, you shouldn’t be able to borrow more than a certain amount (like around your annual starting salary). Right now there are Russian Literature majors graduating from private schools with well over $100k in governmentally guaranteed loans. How is it we can’t seem to set the ridiculousness in this situation?

TFG: What are your thoughts on programs like Pay as You Earn & Income-Based Repayment? Do you feel these are sustainable government programs or band-aids for our student loan debt problem?

Adam: I think they are helpful to a certain extent, like a tourniquet is helpful when you’ve cut your hand off (TFG here – love this, ha). There is talk, at length, of making college more affordable but the way we do it is by spreading the payments out over 25 years. While we may make it more “affordable”, it actually makes it more expensive. I think the Department of Education has a vested interest in making sure that colleges and universities have a steady stream of applicants and students. Their loans make it exceptionally easy to pursue a degree, even if it’s not the best possible scenario for the student.

TFG: I think it’s fairly reasonable to say the system is at least somewhat broken. Imagine you are emperor of the student  loan debt crisis and can make any changes you’d like. How do you handle getting the situation under control?

Adam: I, as emperor of the student loan debt crisis, do hereby declare that for starters we are going to reduce the interest rate charged on student loans because it’s insane that the government will lend banks money at .25% while it lends students money at 6.8% or higher. I also declare that you can no longer borrow unlimited funds for college, but instead it’s based on an equation that will ultimately keep you from borrowing too much relative to your earning power. If you borrow more than the governmentally guaranteed amounts (relative to income) then the risk that’s assumed by lenders is their own. Any of these amounts may be bankrupted as the free market will regulate accordingly. Interest rates will be high on these loans, as they should be. So borrow accordingly…

TFG: Now onto something a little more fun: Monopoly! I loved your idea of playing the game with your kids as a social experiment with real cold hard cash. Do you have any other innovative financial literacy ideas for parents with young kids?

Adam: My kids are investing in the stock market on a monthly basis and we make a bit of a game of it. They like to see which companies are paying dividends, which companies have a high EPS, which ones are tanking and why. It’s exceptionally rewarding to see them take an interest in it. We also require that our children have an emergency savings account. By the time they were 5 they had to have at least $300 in their account. By the age of 7 it was $400, and by 9 they have to have $500. My 8 year old currently has the most at over $900 in his emergency fund. He likes to see his bank statement when it comes each month. Anything he thinks he’d like to save at this point I’m encouraging him to put towards his investment account. Right now he’s buying Microsoft stock because he loves Minecraft!

TFG: Thanks so much for stopping by! I really enjoyed the film and I will have to check out your book, Winning The Money Game.
Adam: Thanks for having me! I encourage you to check out my other book as well: 30 Days To $1K. It’s a chapter a day book for a month that will help you put away at least $1,000 in an emergency fund.

 

TFG, here back at you. Big thanks to Adam for taking some time and providing his insight on the student loan debt crisis! I’m curious to hear other opinions on our current student loan debt situation in America and methods to fixing it. For me, Adam’s words hit home. I think one of the biggest fundamental problems is that 18 year-olds are given a “blank check” to borrow as much money as they need to obtain their education. We have to be smarter than this.

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What I’m Reading – Daily Links Feb 17

I’ve been super busy with school lately & mid-terms have hit hard and fast this week. Luckily, I am done for a little while and by this time next week, I will be hanging out on a beach in Maui!

Since, there is an almost endless amount of information floating around in the internet, I am going to start a new feature where I provide a glimpse of some of my favorite reads around the cyber galaxy. For now, it probably won’t be weekly and I am going to try to steer clear of the personal financial blogosphere that I think most of us follow regularly. And come to think of it, it’s more of like a mix of articles, infographics, and youtube videos. Because I don’t know about you, but I love charts and I waste WAY too much time looking at mostly dumb and sometimes interesting youtube videos.

What I’m Reading – February 17, 2016 Edition:

  • A couples weeks ago, a friend on Facebook shared an article from Ricky Yean, a tech-start-up co-founder and silicon valley entrepreneur. He writes about why so few successful start-up founders grew up poor and how it boils down to something he calls, “mindset inequality.” Really great read and worth your time.
  • Go watch this Ted Talk from Adam Carroll on what happens when he played Monopoly with $10,000 REAL DOLLARS with his kids. Great piece on personal finance and teaching financial management to young ones.
  • I’m a huge sucker for anything that has to do with millennials and personal finance in the same sentence. PWC did a study on millennials & our supposed struggle with personal financial literacy. I always question the breadth and depth of these types of studies, but they are believable based on some of the comments around personal finance I have heard from friends in their 20’s. Interesting stuff.
  • If you’ve never ventured around Harvard Business Review, their site has some great stuff. I found an interesting perspective from Ray Sheen, who wrote about his daughters, “When our two daughters finished their high school studies, my wife and I made them a deal: we would pay for college, but first they each had to run their own business for at least a year.” Read more about it here.
  • Neat infographic on which home-renovation projects have the biggest ROI. It’s a story for another day, but we recently had about half our home’s floors redone and so I thought it was interesting.

-TFG

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My 2016 Goals – January Update

January is over and that new year’s resolution feeling has fully worn off by now. Are you changing your habits or did you make empty promises to yourself that you haven’t kept?

Let’s see the progress on my 2016 goals below:

Become a Morning Person

I’m embarrassed to say, but as a grown-ass man I click the snooze button WAY too much. I am still working on getting into my routine that will get me up and productive earlier in the day. The last week or so I have tried to move my alarm to a place where I can’t reach it in bed and I think this has started to help, but still a lot of work to do here to break old habits.

Run 365 366 Miles this Year

I realized that 2016 is a leap year so February 29 is gracing us with her presence this year. In the spirit of keeping with the average of 1 mile per day I’ve upped my number to 366 miles.

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All in all, not a bad way to start out the year on the exercise side of things. January included a total of 10 runs for 33.8 miles total at sub 8:50 average pace. I don’t particularly love running on the treadmill but intervals are good to do from time to time. It also helps me understand my natural pace and try to push/change my natural pace.

Run 2 10Ks & Run my first half-marathon

I’ve started to zero in on my dates for my first 10K (end of March) and half-marathon (mid-April). I have no doubts of running 6.1 miles right now in the shape that I’m in, but still have to work on the mental aspect of running 13.1 miles. So plenty of work left to do here in the coming weeks and months before the half.

50 First Dates

Success in the first month of the year! Highlights include an evening staying in to discuss 2016 financial goals, finally catching Star Wars 7, our too often trips to Costco & the grocery stores, and shopping for some clothes for an upcoming trip to Hawaii –
BE JEALOUS! 😉

Make at least $7,500 profit from side hustle-y things

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Relatively slow start out of the gates here for January. On the eBay side of things, I listed so heavily in Q4 of last year, I’ve had a bit of a hangover. I’ve gotten a decent amount of inventory to Amazon these last few weeks. The biggest thing I am interested to see is what my margins look like once I get my FBA Amazon action really moving. Historically, I have averaged 45-50% margins on eBay. I highly doubt I will hold that high of a margin on Amazon. But it’s also much easier to send things to Amazon in bulk than to list on eBay individually. The other category is mainly some LA Laker’s tickets that I snagged up for Kobe’s retirement tour and re-sold. More to come on that later.

Read at least 12 Books (yes, from start – finish)

About half way through Smart Couples Finish Rich  and currently listening to The Power of Habit on audiobook. I’ll give my thoughts on each when I am through with them.

Increase Net Worth by 35% (About $65K)

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As we all know, it was a rough month for equities across the globe. Just remember that sometimes volatility is good for us over the long term. I expect 2016 to be a bumpy road with plenty of ups & downs in the market. I still expect to max out my HSA, pay down my mortgage, save in pre and post tax retirement accounts. Nothing to see here.

 

-TFG

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Why Market Volatility Is Good For Our Future Financial Independence

My goal is to prove to you, the skeptical reader, why sometimes market volatility is a good thing for us. Like so many others in the financial blogosphere, I am addicted to spreadsheets.

Let me preface this by saying, this is not to say you should be 100% allocated into equities. But like I mentioned to Financial Samurai, I believe too many of us Gen Yers are way too risk adverse when it comes to investing our money for the long-term. The point is that you should have a predetermined investing strategy and desired asset allocation. Market movement and sentiment should not change this. Market volatility should not change this. It’s times like this that help new investors learn their spot on the risk continuum. But it’s also headlines like this that are the equivalent of financial porn. And they are out there almost every day, many times on major media sites. Ignore the noise and stay the course.

Now that I’m off my soapbox about creating a plan and coming up with an asset allocation, I wanted to look at a hypothetical portfolio with different growth rates throughout time. I spend quite a bit of time forecasting out net worth, retirement planning, other financial nerd stuff, etc. Until recently, I have always assumed a constant growth rate. But what happens if instead of assuming constant growth, we assume cyclical bear/bull markets that might be more realistic based on history. I was suprised by the results.

Here are my base assumptions:

  • Freddy the Finance Nerd is 27 years old
  • He earns $60k salary and expects to average a 3% raise throughout his career
  • Even though he slightly wants to blow all his money on hookers and coke (see what I did there), he instead is committed to contributing 10% of his lifetime salary into a 401k plan. His employer will match at 5%.
  • He holds his 10% contribution constant throughout all his working years (this is an important assumption!)

In this example, we will look at 5 different scenarios for the upcoming 33 year outlook. Each of the 4 scenarios with growth will average 7% return annually.

  1. No Growth: 0% return
  2. Constant Growth: 7% annual return
  3. Bear 5, Bull 5: -5% return for 5 years, 19% return for 5 years and so on – last 3 years assumed 7% return
  4. Super Bear 5, Bull 5: -11% return for 5 years, 25% return for 5 years and so on – last 3 years assumed 7% return
  5. Bear 7, Bull 7: -5% return for 7 years, 19% return for 7 years and so on – last 5 years assumed 7% return

The results can be found below.

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Maybe you’re surprised, maybe you’re not. I was. But it makes sense. All 3 scenarios with bear/bull markets (cyclical) outpace the constant growth scenario. I also realize that time doesn’t stop when we turn 60 and we likely have 2-3 MORE decades in the market after that.

The no growth and constant growth are pretty straightforward. Over his working lifetime, Freddy & his employer have contributed about $450k to his 401K plan, which grows to about $1.5M with a consistent 7% annual growth rate.

But with the cyclical market scenarios, something remarkable happens. For 5-7 year stretches throughout his career, Freddy is able to effectively purchase more shares of whatever mutual fund or index fund because the market is going down, down, down. By staying the course, Freddy is effectively dollar cost averaging during the down times and gets the benefit of amazing returns during the up times. This translates into a 33-55% increase in Freddy’s 401K account (depending on which cyclical scenario we are looking at)  after 33 years compared to the constant growth rate scenario.

This only works if Freddy is consistently contributing money into his 401K. If he tries to time the market and decreases his 401k contribution during perceived bad times and increase during perceived good times, he could end up just about anywhere on this graph.

I’m not saying that I guarantee an average 7% return, but if it happens I sure as hell want it to happen in peaks & valleys instead of at a constant rate over time.

Being in my 20’s I have to remember that market volatility will be present throughout my accumulation phase. A down market (*cough*2016*cough*) means cheaper shares and at the end of the day, that’s what we are accumulating – numbers of shares.

I can understand as someone gets into their 40’s, there might be some resistance to this idea of thinking hoping for MORE market volatility. I would still argue that if you are resistant to the level of risk associated with increased market volatility, you should be changing your asset allocation to lower risk investments. This is, of course, because higher 401K balances raise the stakes and the magnitude of risk.

In your 20’s and 30’s, my argument would be that market volatility is a good thing for our accumulation and our path towards financial independence because of the decades that we have on our side.

At the end of day, my sentiment has less than 0% impact on the movement of the market and . So in that case, go down ms. market and get me some cheaper shares these next couple years!

So what do you think readers? Is market volatility good or bad? Have I gone absolutely crazy? Shoot some holes in my theory.

 

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Buy Every Lottery Ticket You Can Afford

Cash out that old IRA. Take a cash advance on your credit cards. Find every dollar you can and buy Powerball lottery tickets for tonight’s record $1.5B jackpot.

Apparently that’s some people’s advice that somehow get on TV. Is this not just proof again of how ridiculous our media is and how dumb American culture is? Let me just say it – you’re not going to win the lottery. You’re not going to know the person that wins the lottery. You very likely won’t be within 3 states of the person that wins the lottery. With the odds now at 1 in 292 million, since last summer’s lottery change to become even more of a crock, expect big jackpots like this to become semi-normal. It may take a while, but we will hit $2B relatively soon with those odds.

I just want to know who runs the Powerball. (Multi-State Lottery Association) They found an effective way to get people to pay taxes and not even complain about it. And the states that gain tax dollars off these lottery sales are laughing all the way to the bank! If we are all so concerned about taxes, maybe the government should create some new even bigger lotteries to help pay down the national debt. It sounds like many, many Americans are more than happy to oblige. But you may say, there is a potential benefit from paying these types of lotto taxes. Yes, I agree – false hope. If people are dumb enough to fall for that government scheme, then I am all for it.

What’s amazing, is that so many people play the lottery every week or at the very least, quite often. At nearly every place that I’ve been employed, there has been an office pool and they are back at it, every week, paying their lotto taxes like upstanding American citizens. The LA Times put together a neat Powerball simulator that shows no matter how much money you put into the Powerball over time – you are extraordinarily likely to lose over 90% or more.

Just a couple of random odds for you:

  • Odds of dating a millionaire: 1 in 215 more than 1.35M times more likely
  • Odds of writing a NYT best seller: 1 in 220 more than 1.32M times more likely
  • Odds of becoming a billionaire (without the lottery): 1 in 7M more than 42 times more likely
  • Odds of becoming President (yes that POTUS): 1 in 10M more than 29 times more likely
  • Odds of winning Powerball: 1 in 292.2M (yikes)

Maybe we should focus some of that lotto tax money on something that is a bit more likely and actual could be a benefit to us.

Write a book. Go find a rich guy. Start a business or just do something productive.

If I come across as brash, it’s because I feel that way. You are 29 times more likely to be President than win the Powerball – come on people, be real. You’re not going to be President either, by the way. I know I have shattered many dreams with this statement.

So if you want to spend a couple bucks on this “historical” jackpot, go for it, but consider yourself a winner if you win even $4 tonight. In the meantime, I think I found a fix for our government debt issue…

 

MY 2016 GOALS SUMMARY – THE BIG 7

I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but I suppose creating a list of my 2016 goals is similar. Perhaps a bit less cliché (but is it really?!).

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There is something about writing goals down that makes me push towards them harder. Maybe it is just getting them out of my head and on to a piece of paper, or maybe it is posting them online in hopes that sharing them with a bunch of strangers on the internet will help keep me more accountable. Either way, I highly encourage you to WRITE DOWN (like with an actual pen, not invisible ink) some goals for the upcoming month, quarter, or year. Even if is just a few. Start small, if necessary, and grow from there. Figure out a way to track your progress and check-in regularly. That’s my plan and we’ll see how it goes this year. I will be updating my goal charts monthly. Here are my 7 big goals for 2016.

Become a Morning Person

If you haven’t seen my post on what my current schedule is and where I want to be: check it out. This goal is a hard one to quantify, but there is a reason that it is listed first. Waking up early will help me become a MUCH more productive person and help me achieve my other goals this year and for many, many years to come.

Run 365 Miles this Year

The 365 isn’t significant, other than it really just means that I average at least 1 mile per day. I didn’t want to set this bar too high, as I am not necessarily focused on the arbitrary number, but more the general improvement in my lifestyle and exercise routine. I would expect that I run 2-4 times a week, but that’s not enough by itself. I also will be looking to strengthen my core through some of my wife’s ridiculous work-out at home routines and other weight exercises.

Run 2 10Ks & Run my first half-marathon

I have run 2 10K races in my life. I trained really hard for the first a few years ago and I felt like the journey did my body well. The second time around, I guess my mindset was, been there, done that, because I didn’t train as much. But I did gain something from that race. Because I had done it before, I knew how hard I could push my body and actually ended up with a better time than the first time around (both around 53 minutes). My goal this year is to run to 2 sub 50-minute 10Ks and my first half in under 2 hours. Lofty time goals but go big or go home.

50 First Dates

Okay, get the cheese ball out. But seriously, I want my wife and me to spend more time together. I really mean being engaged with each other. Stipulation here is that if we are watching TV or on our phones, it doesn’t count as a date. It will help that we are on the same schedule, since she doesn’t work during the middle of the night anymore!

Make at least $7,500 profit from side hustle-y things

I’ve got my eBay store, small-time ticket brokering, and recently started with the Fulfillment by Amazon path. If I have time, I am also looking to get some side consulting and/or tutoring going as these types of ventures are nearly pure profit other than the time that I invest in them. Last year I was too focused on sales volume, this year the focus needs to be on the cost-benefit analysis of my time vs. the profit that comes from the activity.

Read at least 12 Books (yes, from start – finish)

And no my accounting & economic textbooks for my spring classes won’t count. As I disclosed last month, I am great at cracking open books, but not good about finishing them. Exhibit A – I did not read Smart Couples Finish Rich last month fully, so that was a fail! Need to do a better a job of carving out time daily or nearly-daily to read. I am a creature of habit.

Increase Net Worth by 35% (About $65K)

Both Financial Samurai and I believe the market will take a slight decline in 2016. If I get a positive return on my investments in the next year, it will just be gravy. I’m not counting on it and honestly not worried about it, either way. With that said, I can still save money in my 401K, ROTH, & HSA accounts, pay down my mortgage, and increase other after-tax savings. With increases of about 31% and 32% respectively each of the last two years, a 35% net worth increase is a bit lofty of a goal, but I like challenges.

 

Notice that my blog is not in my top 7 goals this year. I only have so much bandwidth and I love reading and writing about personal finance. Ideally, I have a goal of posting every week this year, but I need to be realistic about my priorities. I think this is another underrated part of goal-setting. Making sure you prioritize what is in front of you and executing on the highest priorities. If you get to the lower priority goals, AWESOME! If not, pick yourself up, realize you can’t do it all at once, and re-evaluate your priorities next time, if necessary.

Stay tuned next month for updates and goal charts. What are some of your goals this year? How do you plan to achieve them and what are the biggest obstacles you see in the upcoming year?

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How Am I Doing on My Goals – Month 1 Report Card

So it’s been a month and a half since my initial post on setting some new goals. Below is my month 1 report card. I’ve been watching a lot of Breaking Bad Seasons 4 & 5 lately, so that can’t be a good sign…

Average 4 Work Outs per Week: A-

Until this week (final exams & final projects), I think I did a pretty good job with this one. I’m going to have to figure out how to fit in 4 workouts as the winter is a comin’. But no excuses: set a goal & execute.

Average a Blog Post Every 5 Days: C-

I’m just going to be real honest with myself here. I can come up with a lot of excuses, but at the end of the day, writing hasn’t been on the top of the totem pole of priorities for me this last month and a half and it will probably stay that way for the next “extended period of time”. I need to re-examine this goal as we go into the New Year and come up with specific, yet reasonable goals. This is the 6th post in 46 days, so by my count that is a post about every 7.7 days.

Average $60/day of new product posted on eBay Store: B

Again, until these last few weeks (as school has ramped up), I’ve done a pretty good job executing to my goal here, but lots of room for improvement. Over the last 90 days, I have sold over 90 items for a total of about $3,350 sales. Definitely one of the best holiday seasons that I’ve ever had and it all is based on the amount of product listed. I’ve also started my journey as an Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) seller. The reason I am so interested in FBA, is because I can continue to source my items, but then send them to Amazon warehouses and not have to worry about individually listing & packaging items. Of course, only certain items will qualify, but time is my most valuable asset right now. FBA helps to give me some of this valuable resource back. I’ll continue to provide updates as I get more into the FBA world!

Enjoy life with wife & dogs: A-

I think we have a done a pretty good job of staying relaxed and spending time as a family. My wife recently transitioned her job role and timing (use to work nights, but now works days), so we are getting use to the new routine. It’s a big change and it will take some time to get use to it.

Maintain School Work: A-

This has taken away from a lot of my other goals in the last 2-3 weeks, but my classes are pretty much winding down and there shouldn’t be any big hiccups here. The A- is for the likely A- I will get in my marketing class.

Read an Interesting Book: F

Complete Fail. I haven’t even opened an interesting book in the last month (Marketing Management doesn’t count – HA…). This goal was too vague and so I need to pick a specific goal to make this happen. By December 31, 2015 I will read Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach. It’s been on my list for a while now and my copy is just staring me straight in the eyes when I walk by it every evening.

My New Daily Routine Goal: D-

Another terrible grade here. If you aren’t familiar, my goal was to transition my routine from this:

  1. 7:30 AM: wake-up
  2. 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM: work
  3. 5:30 PM – later: do stuff

To this:

  1. 7:00 AM: wake-up
  2. 7:15 AM: work out / walk dogs & shower
  3. 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM: work
  4. 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM: eat & chill time
  5. 7:30 PM – 9:00 PM: school work / ebay / write
  6. 9:00 PM – 10:30 PM: wind down & in-bed by 10:30

I think my wife’s transition to early mornings will help. I have always been a night owl, but there is no denying that morning people are usually much more productive people. I’m a creature of habit, so if I can create this habitual daily improvement, I know I will improve my productivity by all accounts.

So there it is – my month 1 report card. Some ups and some downs, but if I look at things on the whole, I have to say slightly disappointing. I’ve always aimed for A’s and B’s on report cards (not a big fan of the C’s get degrees expression).

Keep your eyes out for a revamping of this update next month. Similar to how other bloggers focus on net worth growth (don’t worry – I track that too), I am working on a comprehensive list of goals to track and update monthly! Just in time for 2016.