60 DoD Week 6: Finances
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. – Ben Franklin
Having a financial plan is vitally important for a number of reasons. What do you think the greatest stressor in relationships is? The lack of sex your wife is giving you? Close one. It’s money., although your shaved balls might think otherwise.
So don’t you think having a plan is critical to fixing your well-being? You have a MAP to get in shape. Why don’t you have a plan for your finances.
This post might better well be served in personal finance, but screw it. I’m going to town. For the folks overseas, some of this content might be US-specific.
On Net Worth
In order to calculate your net worth, you need to take your assets, such as your checking account, savings, house, etc, and subtract your liabilities, your mortgage, credit card debts, and loans, and you’ll get your net worth.
This is a good time to be spreadsheet guy. But instead of counting how many ladies you are seeing or counting how many times you had sex, use Excel for its intended purpose.
Start calculating it annually, quarterly, monthly. Whatever frequency you feel like you need to get a handle on where your net worth is going. For myself, I do this quarterly, though I have my finger on the pulse pretty frequently.
You want to get ahead? You have to operate on a budget. Know what you are spending, what you are saving, and where your money is going.
For me, I’ve got it set where it takes me about 7 minutes to log into the various accounts, take certain numbers like food spend and so forth, and plug those numbers into the Excel boxes. Plugging them in allows me to quickly project the next three months spend and where I’ll be. Some numbers are easy to find, like the fixed costs of mortgage and student loans. Some numbers you have to estimate or look up, like variable food costs and gas/electric. I do this about once a month. It doesn’t take long at all – just making sure I have good cash flow and sticking to my budget.
Take the time to do a detailed line item comparison. You should know exactly how much is going where. The real key though is STICKING TO YOUR BUDGET. You have to keep to it in order to meet your goals.
On Financial Literacy
It’s key to have a good understanding on financial literacy. You have to understand things such as what is the market, what is a stock, what is a bond, what is a dividend, what is a mutual fund, and so forth. You have to know what you are investing in. Take your financial knowledge and move it up. There are literally tons of free information out there. Start going to town. And for the advanced players, go learn the ins and outs of your brokerage firm’s website and trading platform – I mean really learn it, not just “Oh, here’s how I do a buy order on a stock.” Learn how to screen for stocks, mutual funds, and bonds effectively.
Side note – If you are in the US, I recommend joining AAII. I have gotten a great deal of value out of my membership to them. A number of HNW individuals I know recommended it to me, though I had joined and got the lifetime membership before I met them.
Personally, I’m a Boglehead. Jack Bogle, man, he was the Chad of passive investing. I believe that passive investing (indexing) long term beats active investing long term. So does Warren Buffet. All my research agrees with this from a long term standpoint.
I’m also a fan of creating an Investment Policy Statement
https://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/The_twelve_pillars_of_wisdom / https://web.archive.org/web/20070304091730/http://www.vanguard.com/bogle_site/april272001.html
I would highly encourage you to review these links and check out their philosophy on investing.
On Being a Contrarian
I’m also a fan of being a contrarian. Be greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy. You see it with the Bitcoin bubble. You see it when the stock market goes up and down. Oh no, the market is going down… whatever shall we do?!? You stick to your guns. I’m not saying go catch a falling knife. I’m saying that you stick to your plan. There is opportunity when people are fearful, and caution is warranted when people are being greedy. You have to evaluate where we are in the economic cycle as well.
On a Cup of Starbucks and Retirement
You might have seen the example where someone buys a cup of Starbucks every day and then finds out that if they took that money and invested it toward their retirement, over the span of say 30 years they’ll have like an extra 200k. I have two comments on this. First, be frugal, but don’t deny yourself. Don’t let frugality control you. Second, don’t just focus on controlling the little changes like saving a cup of Starbucks every week, focus on the BIG areas. Focus on getting a new job that pays you an extra 40k per year. Focus on saving 100 bucks off your cable (1200 bucks saved per year). Focus on lowering your taxes. What I’m saying is focus on not just the small areas, but also make the bigger impact areas a higher priority. And stop drinking so much Starbucks – make it yourself. Grind the beans, for crying out loud.
Automate your finances. Make it EASY for yourself to save money. Set up your automatic bill payments for your credit card, loans, mortgage, and bills. Take advantage of the modern tools nowadays for app/camera based check deposits. Have money taken out of your paycheck before you get it, whether it is for retirement or into a separate savings account, so you can accumulate a rainy day fund. I’ve automated as much as I can, with direct withdrawals taken out for mortgage, credit card payments, gas and electric, and for the other areas like telephone those are automatically paid from the credit card, which then is automatically paid from the checking account. Automating saves time, which is a critical resource.
On Buying a Car
Here’s your resources:
http://fightingchance.com/ - I used these for private market research, and was worth every penny.
There’s a lot more here, but this should get you through the basics. Simply, knowledge is power. The more you know, the more power you have. If you don’t know every single line item that is going into your purchase, whether it is an accessory, taxes, that stupid coating that they try to sell you for $1000 but it’s really just worth $100, etc., then you’re not ready, and you’re more likely to be fleeced.
Just even walking into the dealership and observing other customers and their interactions with the car salesman, it’s like watching sheep. Don’t be a sheep. Be prepared. And be prepared to walk too. Cars are a commodity. You can buy the same car someplace else cheaper. Remember this – cars are a commodity, and there’s lots of dealers out there.
Side note – “But Steel, what about TrueCar? That seems awesome. I’ll just go in, get my TrueCar/Costco/KBB/XXX price and I won’t even have to do anything to get a great price.” Let me tell you this. Dealers would be HAPPY to sell you at the TrueCar price all day long. With proper preparation, you can negotiate a far better deal. Last time when preparing, I had a binder. That binder saved me over 9k. Cost me 5 bucks at the local pharmacy. Printed out all my info, was prepared as all get out, and had a prepared offer ready to go (I used my own sheet, not theirs). Be prepared, that’s what I’m saying. And don’t fall for the four square technique. I just chuckled at the different dealerships at how they try to pull that one. Hell, I went through YouTube and viewed a couple of videos on how car salesmen sell, so I had an understanding of their mentality and what they do. Be prepared.
Generally, there are five major parts for buying a car: Trading in your current car, buying your new car, buying options on a car (like that fancy heated steering-wheel), extended warranty, and financing. You should own every single area of this. As an example, when you are talking about trading in your current car, you should ALREADY have your price quote from CarMax in hand, as well as other offers from other dealers. You should know what your car is worth if it were to be sold (remember supply and demand – what is it really worth: what someone will buy it for). You should already have the KBB and Edmunds value of your used car. For your new car, you should have a breakdown of every single thing on it, including options, doc fees and ERT. For your fancy accessories, you should have the MSRP of these accessories, the actual cost of them buying (wholesale parts warehouse), and an estimate in your head on labor costs (cause parts don’t get installed by themselves). For your extended warranty, I would just say that there is a reason why this is one of the most profitable areas of a car dealership. If you simply must have an extended warranty for peace of mind, go find a wholesale warranty. Do your research. Don’t buy from the dealership. Most cars nowadays anyway are built quite well with high standards of quality control, so they’re not failing like they used to. On financing, make sure you set up your own financing before you walk in. It makes life much easier, as the car dealers get money on financing as well. If the dealership can beat your credit union, more power to them. It’s powerful as all get out when you walk in with a prewritten cashier’s check at a super low interest rate and you’re ready when they start asking you how you are going to pay for the car. “Well, I am preapproved for x amount (aka the full amount of the car), but I’d like to see what specials and discounts you have.”
It’s all about how much money you can save in each one of these areas.
Granted if you’re BETA BUCKS and your time is worth more than doing a bit of research, that’s fair. Some folk just walk in and buy a car right there with a minimum of haggling. That’s how much their time is worth to them, and I know a few people who are like this. I’m merely presenting an alternate approach. To me, it was worth the time to save more than a few thousands.
On Buying a House
For many people, a house is the largest purchase that they make in their lifetime. Many of you have already bought houses, so I won’t go into this in detail, but again, from The Millionaire Next Door – “If you’re not yet wealthy, but want to be someday, never purchase a home that requires a mortgage that is more than twice your household’s annual realized income.”
I see a lot of you going “Shit” after reading that.
On a Side Hustle
I didn’t even have to write anything, u/red-sfpplus already wrote an excellent post on this topic - https://www.reddit.com/r/marriedredpill/comments/7i7x4q/the_financial_hustle/
Learn from his example. And then buy the man a drink.
On What to Do First
"Successful Investing takes time, discipline and patience. No matter how great the talent or effort, some things just take time: You can't produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant." - Warren Buffett
First of all, take stock of where you are. Figure out your net worth, and what you have and what you owe (and interest rates). I would say the first thing to do is to have a three to six month emergency fund. This can be done in conjunction with getting rid of high interest debt (such as credit card debt), however if and when you have an emergency, you’re going to need to tap into something.
Start your budgeting process. Know where your money is going. Fix it.
Most people don’t even have a thousand dollars in savings. Don’t be like that.
I would also note that the Personal Finance subreddit has this already diagrammed out in a flowchart in their wiki - https://i.imgur.com/lSoUQr2.png
On Giving Back
So you give back, right. Of course you do. But what I suggest is potentially setting up a charitable fund, so that you can maximize your charitable deduction annually. You can give a larger sum one year, and then less/none the following year – and maximize your deduction the first year. Something to consider. Plus then your charitable fund is invested, will grow with the market (remember you need a plan and asset allocation here as well), and the growth can be given to the charity as well, tax free. I’d recommend Vanguard, but really there are a number of places that do this.
On Habits of Millionaires
From the book The Millionaire Next Door, here are the characteristics of millionaires:
• They live well below their means
• They allocate their time, energy, and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.
• They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status
• Their parents did not provide economic outpatient care.
• Their adult children are economically self-sufficient.
• They are proficient in targeting market opportunities.
• They chose the right occupation.
On Building Wealth
You want to build wealth? Don’t have a high consumption lifestyle! Think for a moment. How much money do you think it takes to maintain an upper-middle class lifestyle vs. how much money do you think it takes to maintain a middle-class/blue collar lifestyle? Bespoke suits. Luxury cars. Bigger house. More property taxes. And so forth. Think of all the stuff you have to purchase to keep up with the Joneses. Cost of cleaning. Cost of buying furniture for that fancy house. Etc.
“But Steel, I don’t care about the Joneses.” Sure you don’t. But your wife does. Watching that HGTV, picking out the stupid pillows that breed like rabbits in your house when you’re not looking. There’s something about a house that factors into the Female Social Matrix.
Frugality is the name of the game. Frugal being “behavior characterized by or reflecting economy in the use of resources.”
Don’t be wasteful. Don’t have a lifestyle marked by lavish spending and hyper consumption. You want to build wealth? Be frugal.
Most people will not become wealthy in one generation if they are married to people who are wasteful. You can’t accumulate wealth if one of you is a hyperconsumer.
On Offence vs. Defense
So you’re not beta bucks, you’re BETA BUCKS! You make it rain! Good for you. You play great offence. But how’s your defense? How’s your wealth accumulation? Are you spending like there’s no tomorrow? If you want to win the game, you have to play great offence AND defense.
Here’s some questions for you:
• Do you operate on an annual budget?
• Do you know how much you spend each year for food, clothing, and shelter?
• Do you have a clearly defined set of daily, weekly, monthly, annual, and lifetime goals?
• Do you spend a lot of time planning your financial future?
To build wealth, minimize your realized (taxable) income, and maximize your unrealized income (wealth/capital appreciation without a cash flow).
How do you become financially independent? You have to plan, and you have to sacrifice. You sacrifice today for financial independence tomorrow.
On Your Wife & Buy-In
As part of your plan and budgeting, once you have it all set, get buy-in from your wife. But do this not like you are seeking approval from mommy (aka you validation whore you), but matter of factly here is the plan, we are budgeting x amount for these areas. Here is our plan. Set out a vision.
On Financial Vision
Read it and weep - https://www.reddit.com/r/marriedredpill/comments/3fecgi/first_budget_discussion_leads_to_minor_meltdown/ctnya77/
“One rarely talked-about element of Married Game is a subtle thing known as Vision. Most husbands don’t appreciate what a strong DHV possessing Vision is, and they proceed unaware of the power it can add to their relationship. Most husbands do this because they don’t understand Vision, what it is and how it is manifested, much less the subtle but important role it holds. Let me explain: once upon a time I was working for a personnel agency, and one of my jobs was coaching our people on interviewing techniques. I learned a lot about the process as a result, from both the interviewer and the interviewee side. When it came to my clients who wanted high-quality employees with good technical skills – real talent – I learned the sorts of things that such high-demand technical people wanted in a company. Money, of course, and security and benefits. But beyond that gifted employees want to work for a company with a history, a good culture, and (most importantly) a Vision.
What is Vision? In this context Vision is a manifested idea of the future. Everyone wants to work for a company that’s changing the world and is doing so in a positive, pro-active way. No one wants to work for the company that’s floundering, desperate just to meet its next quarter’s goals. Vision is a generally-stated plan-of-action toward a distant but achievable goal, presented in an enticing enough manner to inspire. It’s short on details and long on generalizations. It’s reflective of inner beliefs, values, and judgments, an indication of character, foresight, and initiative. It should be bold, meaningful, and challenging.”
Now, this quote above is excellent. You need a vision for your life, but you also need a vision for your finances. What would your financial vision be? What does it look like to you? Create it, and then be ready to share that with your family.
On Love of Money
Remember folks, money itself is not the root of all evil. It’s the LOVE of money that causes the problem. When you are so driven to be a better beta bucks to get that coin, and start neglecting yourself, your relationships, etc… you’ve got problems. Money is just a tool in the toolbox. Use it, don’t let it use you. Don’t become a slave to money. Your life doesn’t consist of how many toys you have. And you can’t take it with you when you go.
On Insurance, or Lack Thereof
Would it surprise you most people are underinsured? Make sure that you have enough of the key five types of insurance: health, car, homeowners/renters, life, and disability. Preparing yourself for these situations can save you a lot of pain in the future. Also, make sure you get enough umbrella insurance. Typically they say have enough umbrella insurance to cover your net worth, but I recommend getting a bit more.
A quick note, practically, do not get whole life insurance. Get term insurance, and invest the difference in cost between whole life and term. You’ll be much better off. And yes, this is for 99.9% of situations. The remaining .1% of situations are when someone is really wealthy and there are estate and tax considerations. Aka for most of us, don’t worry about it.
And take care of your health, so you don’t get fat when you are older and have related medical problems. Put. The. Fork. Down.
On Assets and Liabilities, Rich Dad Poor Dad Edition
A number of you have read Rich Dad Poor Dad, and there’s controversy in it. I disagree with a number of items in there, but there is an interesting point in there about how he views assets and liabilities:
“You must know the difference between an asset and a liability, and buy assets. If you want to be rich, this is all you need to know. It is Rule No. 1. It is the only rule. This may sound absurdly simple, but most people have no idea how profound this rule is. Most people struggle financially because they do not know the difference between an asset and a liability.”
He has a simple, non-accounting definition - “An asset is something that puts money in my pocket. A liability is something that takes money out of my pocket.”
Buy assets. I like it. What is out there that you can buy that puts money in your pocket. Stocks. Bonds. Mutual Funds. Real Estate that produces Income. There are a ton of items.
You should also think about getting rid of your liabilities… the giant boat, the private jet, the cluster B horrible sex-depriving wife (you know who you are)… you get the idea.
On Disaster Recovery and Information Security
What were to happen if you were to croak, or your only laptop with all your financial data was stolen or destroyed in a fire along with all your financial papers (see, you should have gotten that fireproof safe)? Would you have a plan on what to do? Would your spouse? Your kids? I would suggest making a backup of your finances, statements, tax returns, and other important papers, and put that on an encrypted USB key with a password that you and your wife knows, and then storing that someplace secure. Note that you can do fancy stuff like cloud storage, and so forth – but you need to have a plan for the worst case scenario.
Additionally, make sure that you use two-factor authentication when you log into your banking accounts (if they have it), as well as don’t repeat your passwords for your financial accounts.
I would even suggest having a separate secured email for your banking accounts, and another one for your personal accounts that get those damn spam emails all the time.
Don’t be stupid with your financial accounts. Using the same password is stupid. Yeah, I’m talking to you.
On Practical Advice
Do get rid of high interest credit cards. If you’ve got a balance on your 29.99% APR credit card and are paying that interest every month, it’s in your best interest to eliminate that debt as soon as possible. You’re not going to get a 29.99% return in a month in the stock market (unless you take on excessive risk for that return, obviously). Try to transfer that balance to a promo 0% interest credit card, and work that down.
Don’t borrow from your 401k. You’re cutting out your future returns. Don’t make that 401k loan your emergency fund, but rather have a separate emergency fund.
Do use credit cards over debit cards, for a whole host of reasons (theft being the primary reason).
Do pay yourself first. Take out at least 10% of your paycheck before it hits your checking account, and start saving.
Don’t pay monthly or annual fees on checking accounts or savings accounts. You shouldn’t be paying a bank to store your money. They should be paying you for that privilege.
Do get solid credit cards that give outstanding rewards. Do your research. Get at least 2% cash back if you can. Shoot for 5% or more. For example, Discover allows you to get 5% cash back in certain categories, and then you can redeem $20 for a $25 gift card to a number of different vendors. Looks like you just got a 6.25% return.
There are plenty of other examples. Do you spend a boatload at Amazon? Get your 5% return. As an example – I get a 5% return on gas using a certain credit card. It’s unlimited throughout the year, and is redeemed as a statement credit, so I don’t have to worry about redemption. I have a certain Amex that I redeem at 4.6% points per dollar spent, plus a 2% general cash back card (some places don’t accept Amex). I could go even crazier, like getting the 3% on restaurants, or churning cards (and there are a lot of sites out there on how to churn successfully), but at some point, it’s not worth it.
Do realize that credit cards make it easy to buy things that you don’t need. Recognize that part of yourself that wants to overspend. Ask yourself, do you need whatever it is you are buying. Would it hurt more if you paid in cash rather than credit. Buying with credit encourages you to buy more than you can afford.
Do shop around for loans/services. I asked my bank what the best car loan they could give me – they said 2.99%. I asked my credit union, and they got me 1.49%. That’s a big difference in interest over the course of a loan. Generally due to how credit unions are structured (and their presence – mostly online), they will have better deals on certain loans than banks, depending on the product.
Don’t delay saving for retirement. Generally, you’ll want to be saving 15% or more of your income for retirement early on. If you don’t save early, the harder it will be.
Do try to simplify your finances. It makes it much more complicated if you chase after the best savings rate for your online bank, and then have many accounts all over the place. The 20 dollars that you get in interest is not worth the complexity and time (aka your most valuable resource) it takes to manage all that stuff.
Don’t use your HELOC unless you have to. I have a large HELOC, but I don’t use it. But who knows when I need access to a large sum of money. And don’t use it in lieu of your emergency fund. You need both.
Do some research into budgeting tools. There’s a lot of people on these threads that recommend YNAB. I personally haven’t used it, so I can’t recommend it one way or the other. I’m old school (and
cheap thrifty – why would you pay for something if you can do it yourself). But definitely check those tools out – Mint, Personal Capital, YNAB, budgeting tools through your bank, etc. Also, if your credit card does an annual summary (like Amex does), make sure you look at it to get an idea on where you’re spending – it’s very helpful.
On Tips for Saving Money
There are a ton of ways you can save money. Go ahead and google “how can I save 1000”. Wait, I did that for you - https://www.google.com/search?q=how+can+I+save+1000
Take some time, call up your cell phone provider/cable provider and see what specials they have. There's a ton of things you can do to save money quickly.
On Too Much Money
Say you’re an ostrich farmer, and are flush with cash. You’re asking yourself, ok, so I’ve maxed out my 401k, I’ve maxed out my Traditional IRA and then backdoored it into a Roth IRA for tax diversification plus the benefits of a Roth. I’m contributing to a 529 plan for the kids. I looked into mega backdooring my Roth but darn it my employer doesn’t let me do that. I’m doing all of the tax advantaged things I can. I still have this extra 300k sitting around – what do I do with it?!? First world problems, amIrite. Again, this comes back to your plan. What’s the short term plan with this money. What’s the long term plan. What’s your risk tolerance. What assets can you invest in that fit in with your plan. You still have to manage your budget, even if you are a 1 percenter.
On the Best Investment and Most Important Resource
I’m a firm believer that the best investment is investing in yourself (and your family and kids), and your most important resource is not money, but time. Learn a skill. Go get a degree. Give your kids a head start. Help your wife accomplish a goal. Do what you can to save time. Money of course helps, but you know what happens when you teach a man to fish.
Is money linked to happiness? Yes, but only to a point - https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2018/02/26/does-money-equal-happiness-does-until-you-earn-much/374119002/ and https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/12/09/key-money-happiness-may-how-you-spend/94308848/
Honestly, at some point, money just becomes a scoreboard. Money will give you security. It will remove a stressor in your life. It will remove fighting and stress in your relationship (about money, fool). It will allow you to do many things. But eventually, money won’t give you happiness. You have to figure that one out yourself. And of course there’s the joke about “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.” – David Lee Roth.
On Money and Attraction
Money by itself will not make your wife’s panties wet. Keep that in mind. Having and getting money is basic adulting. Same with saving and managing it. You want to get her wet? Get in shape. Lift. Does money boost your status? Sure. Is status one of those areas that has some effect on where you are in the sexual marketplace? Sure. Pure physical attraction? No. Do you really think that making MORE money is going to have your wife give you more sex? Of course not - https://heartiste.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/money-wont-save-beta-males/
Get in shape. Be hawt. And fix your damn teeth so you can smile like you are a somebody.
On a Brief Story
So I was talking to a friend of mine, and I asked him how he and his wife set up the finances. He told me about this system, where his paycheck goes into his checking, his wife’s paycheck goes into his wife’s checking, and they have a joint savings account. Then he went into a convoluted description on how each of them pays certain bills, and how what he’s paying is not fair since he’s paying the mortgage AND property tax AND daycare, etc etc). I thought to myself, man, what a convoluted way to deal with stuff. They would then have multiple financial meetings, and discussion on who pays what, and all this extra stuff. It was just a lack of overall ownership going on.
Just take care of the finances. Figure out a system that works for you. I’m not going to tell you which system is the best, because it’s all dependent on your unique circumstances (example: heavy spender SAHM vs saver career girl, you’ll need to put some deep restrictions on the heavy spender). But own it.
On Who Owns the Finances
You own the finances. Period. End stop. From the prior post on finances, it’s so important that I’m putting it here again:
“At the core: Who do you want in charge of your financial future?
The person interested in maintaining status quo and safety at all costs with your happiness and satisfaction a secondary or minor consideration? Or you?
If you've learned anything here it's that you need to be a captain. Putting your wife in the family alpha role breeds contempt and most of the problems that brought your here. Besides control of sex, family MONEY decision veto power is the key indicator of who is wearing the pants.”