63% Savings Rate: Dollars Go to Work!!!

We invested a whopping 63% of our income in December 2013!!!!

It’s really pretty magical to see so much of our personal income now going straight into investments. This was the very reason we eliminated our debt in the first place!!

I am more convinced than ever that most middle class Americans can achieve financial independence in 15 years or less. My passion is energizing and guiding technology professional to buy their time with financial independence in 12 years or less.

Who doesn’t want complete freedom over their time everyday?!?! Most of these highly intelligent and creative people would be UNLEASHED!!! Their incomes would double or triple rather quickly when working from the position of strength that an abundance of time affords.

Better yet, we would have more people dedicated to solving the many vast and complex problems this world has to offer. How fun would that be?! I’m on a mission to destroy fear and empower people to live life at their best!!!

December 2013 - Dollars Go to Work!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Category % of Income (After Tax)
Giving 9.13%
Investing/Saving 62.87%
Groceries/Household Supplies 3.79%
Spending Money 1.89%
Utilities 1.99%
Car Gas 3.31%
Car Repairs 0.95%
Insurance (Misc.) 1.37%
House Payment 4.73%
House HOA 0.71%
House Property Taxes 1.26%
Steph's Work Expenses 1.01%
Nate's Work Expenses 4.26%
Dental Work 0.95%
Restaurants 1.18%
Space Heater 0.33%
Gifts 0.28%

Highlights

I significantly cut down on driving my Lexus ES300 into the office last month because I calculated that it was costing me $50+ A DAY (gas + depreciation).

Instead, I discovered that my city has an express bus that shuttles professionals back and forth from the suburbs. A pass is about $100 a MONTH!! I still can’t believe how much money this saves!! I love reading and getting to know new people as I ride the bus.  Now when I look out the window at the guy (riding alone) in a Ford F350 sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I think to myself, “DUDE!! You are missing the good life and you have no idea…”.

The Lexus is a beautiful car (I bought it from an engineer at Vanguard for $10,000 cash last year). I still drive it on the weekends with my wife :-)

lexusES300

You may look at the savings rate number I posted above and think to yourself, “there is no way I will ever be able to save 60% of my income a month…”.

You are WRONG!! I know you can do it. Why? Because I am nothing special. I grew up very poor in South Carolina (US). I wasn’t especially smart and I didn’t have a ton of social connections. If I can do it – anyone can do it. Start by supercharging your habits!! This will lead you away from debt and give you the confidence to conquer anything!! You can do it!!! Get the ball rolling today!!! #MoveTheBall

Stop Making New Year’s Resolutions!!!

Today I want to challenge you in a way you may never have been challenged before. Forget about making a giant New Year’s resolution list. You will set yourself up for failure doing this (because it’s unlikely that you will achieve all of these goals at once).

Instead, start with a SINGLE inspiring idea that lights your fire and gets you excited about taking action!!!!!!

You are going to focus on this (single) idea for the entire year.

What’s your motivating idea?!?! This will be a trigger for a new set of behaviors that will lead you into a life you LOVE!!

I started 2013 with a single idea: “I wonder if I can learn to stop hating and start enjoying intense workouts?”.

Workout statistics at the beginning of 2013 >
  • Running: 10 minute mile.
  • Strength: 4 sets – 21 minutes.
    • 1 set = 50 JJs, 30 Squats, 30 Knee-Pushups, 30 (sec) Side Plank.
Workout statistics at the end of 2013 >
  • Running: 6 minute 51 second mile.
  • Strength: 4 sets – 10:00 minutes.
    • 1 set = 50 JJs, 30 Squats, 30 Knee-Pushups, 30 (sec) Side Plank.

Did I achieve anything else the rest of the year? Of course!! I was very intentional about aggressively developing my career in 2013 as well. This isn’t about “pressing pause” in every other area of your life. However, IT IS about systematically putting INTENSE LEVELS OF FOCUS on one very important idea that can change your life.

What does this mean when the rubber-meets-the-road? For me, it meant that I had to mentally prioritize my exercise routine above everything else for a period of time (until it became habit). There were many days that I wouldn’t let myself leave the house to meet with a client until I finished my workout. Then one day, I was late for an important meeting because my workout ran over (I HATE being late…). What did I do? Did I stop my workouts? NOOOOOOOO — this is priority #1 remember? Instead I adjusted my behavior (woke up a little earlier so I had some additional margin with my time).

Tiny tweaks lead to huge outcomes. Once you start executing on your idea, guard it like treasure. Be unusually outlandish with your level of commitment.

 This is Your Year of Excellence!!!

Are you stressed out and arguing with your spouse all the time? Maybe it’s time to destroy some debt!! Or you might need to have an “intervention” for a relative who is destroying the culture of your family unit (touch some nerves there?).

How are you crafting the life you and your family love in 2014? What idea excites you?!?! What kind of life do you want to live 1, 3 and 5 years from now? It starts with an idea.

Performance is NOT saying what you will do. It is doing what you say you will do (and MORE). This is true in our careers, relationships, exercise routines and LIFE!!!! What are you going to, “stop saying and start doing” this upcoming new year?

It’s time to get to work. Zone in on your target and let’s make things happen!! #MoveTheBall2014

Epiphany

Since capturing the following epiphany in October 2013, I started another six figure consulting position with a Fortune 50 company in order to finish, ”buying the rest of our time”!

I also recruited a couple engineers (and good friends) from my previous client so I would, “have some friends to eat lunch with” LOL!! In the process, I helped one of them double his income. I am passionate about making sure professionals are compensated well. I enjoy helping people discover the very attainable goal of achieving financial independence.

I continue to manage several profitable side businesses including recruiting talented technology professionals and enabling them to do the best work of their lives.

I just had an epiphany.

Stephanie had a migraine today and I took her to the urgent care place down the street for a quick visit (she is getting better now). The doctor came out and said, “Nate – Stephanie wants you to come back and be with her”. I rubbed and put pressure on her head until the doctor could give her the migraine shot (it helps her feel better). The nurses looked shocked that I was there with her on a Monday morning. Heck, I forgot it was Monday.

I won’t always have the option to, “be there”, although 5 years of ~ focused strategic life designing ~ has now given me that option more times than not.

So what was my epiphany?

I finally own my time. While I love a “tricked out” car or boat as much as the next person – I love my “tricked out” time more. It’s not as sexy (I can’t take an Instagram photo of it unfortunately). It tastes like freedom more than anything else. I love people, business and technology (in that order) so much that it would be impossible for me NOT to join another company in pursuit of excellence. I certainly have several opportunities to do that. But right now, I am enjoying my shiny new toy: time.

It’s important that I hold my wife’s hand when she needs me. Now Steph is sleeping (after a very long-needled injection… Ugh) and I am getting ready to finish exploring with the dogs. This insight has rocked my world on this beautiful Monday. I hope I get to spend the rest of my life showing other people how to “own their time”.

How I Transformed My $45,000 Income into a Six-Figure Income

Note: I originally wrote this guest post for my friends over at Free Money Finance back in 2010!! You can hear the excitement in my (25 year old) voice as I was pushing my limits and learning “what it takes” to become excellent at my career and earn a great income. Since writing this piece, I turbocharged my career further, ultimately securing a key management role in a Fortune 50 company by the time I was 27 years. I also founded a profitable technology talent recruiting practice and a management/IT consultancy.

The FMF article, Five Steps to Six Figures in Seven Years stirred up a burning desire from within me to increase my income.  This article pushed me to set some pretty unrealistic (or so I thought) goals!

I have always been attracted to the idea of Financial Independence (Financial Peace).  I wanted the ability to provide a good life for my future family and help others around me in a very intentional way. I wanted the ability to quit my job… or lose my job… or create my own job, without worrying how I would pay the bills next month.  I discovered that the only tried and true method to accomplish this was to increase my income as rapidly as possible and not give all of that income away to expenses. In other words: live below my means.

At 24 years of age I decided I wanted to transform my $45,000 a year income into a 6 figure income by the time I turned 30.   I looked at the FMF article and started checking off the 5 steps required to attain a 6 figure income:

Step one: Get a high-earning degree from a good school

I had earned several bachelor’s degrees in IT and business (real estate finance and entrepreneurship) from the University of South Carolina.  Check!

Step two: Work for a name-brand employer at your first job

I worked for a large name-brand insurance company for 2 years straight out of college.  Check!

Step three: Perform

I was performing like a super star! NO I WASN’T! I actually was simply doing a good job. I was coming in at 8:30AM and staying until 4:30PM, Monday-Friday; doing everything that was asked of me in-between.

I considered myself indispensible simply because I was good at what I was doing – and both my employer and I knew that they were getting my labor for a discounted rate.

So… half-check!

Step four: Manage your career aggressively

I wasn’t doing this as well as I thought I was at the time… Looking back on the situation, I was passively maintaining my career.

Step five: Have some luck

I have never believed in luck as people perceive it to be.  I knew that luck was when relentless preparation and skills meets the right opportunity.  I just wasn’t preparing nor positioning myself to snatch the right opportunity. At least not for a 6 FIGURE opportunity…

No check

Turning things around

I had some work to do!  I desperately needed to work on steps 3, 4 and 5 if I had a fighting chance of reaching my goal. I decided I needed to open a new business…  A great business that would give me 6 figure income potential.  I just couldn’t decide what kind of business I wanted to run. I realized I needed to start selling myself (not in a creepy way)!

Me Inc. was in business. I only needed one client who was willing to purchase my product (i.e. my employer, or possibly another employer).

A snapshot of the kinds of things I have done over the past year in pursuit of a 6 figure income:

  • I married a fantastic woman (shout out to my Stephy poo!) who has supported me and pushed me to do whatever I felt necessary to win for our family.
  • I began reading lots of books on leadership, teamwork, influence, career building etc.
  • I actively managed my online presence (Facebook etc.). Because we all know employers look at your online presence now – it doesn’t matter if you think you are only sharing information with friends and family. My new employer aggressively vetted my online identity.
  • We (my wife and I) learned how to manage money like our lives depended on it (frugal, saving, investing etc.). We built up a 6 month emergency fund (on my $45,000 income). This actually gave me the confidence to begin taking chances at work – and ultimately switch jobs (paying for all the moving expenses with cash).
  • I built a credit score of over 800 – very important for any possible future job switches.
  • I learned how to write a fantastic resume.
  • I took on VERY high profile projects that I would have historically just casually participated in or taken orders from someone else. I worked extremely hard to exceed every deadline/responsibility I was given. I made my company tons of money in very visible ways. I also worked to save them as much money as possible. A big win here was assisting my company win a multi-million dollar contract with our largest client, with whom I had developed an outstanding relationship. I kept records of the contributions I was making (even if it was on a scratch piece of paper I threw in the office after working really late).
  • I invested in relationships with people (a lot!!!). I began connecting with people in dynamic and substantial ways. They started trusting me. They started listening to me. They started reporting to me. I started networking very, very aggressively. I wasn’t simply trying to suck resources and favors out of other people. On the contrary, I focused on injecting as much value into my relationships with friends, family, co-workers and professional acquaintances as possible. I became obsessed with creating win-win situations. One of my major successes in the relationships department was befriending a VP (and later the Sr. VP) of the company I now work for.

Reaching the goal!

Nearly a year has gone by since I started outperforming at work, managing my career aggressively and preparing for the right opportunity (luck) that would lead me to a 6-figure income before I turned 30.

Two months ago I was pursued by a VP from a small/midsized IT company that had been paying attention to the valuable work I had been diligently producing for the large insurance company I had been working for.  They made me an offer for close to 6 figures with a sizable end of year bonus.  We also make about $12,000 a year in income from our rental property.

I should also mention that I make a decent side income (couple thousand dollars a year) buying things from garage sales, auctions, estate sales, friends, family and strangers and reselling them.  My wife and I go out and look for deals as a hobby.  I almost exclusively look for items that have an immediate ROI (I just purchased a computer for $5 and resold the next day for $225.00).  My wife on the other hand looks for clothes, accessories, jewelry, books, appliances and decorations etc.  She saves us tons of money by making these purchases tax free for pennies on the dollar as opposed to purchasing items at full retail.

Armed with my new salary + end of year bonus + rental income + resale of assets purchased at a discount, we are on track to making well over 6 figures this year.

WOOHOOOOO!!!!!!!!!  Live like no one else so that later you get to LIVEEEEEEE like no one else!!!!!!!!!

How Much Do You Tip Service Providers?

Do you know anyone who is super cheap and doesn’t tip at all? I know a few people like this and it always bothers me!! I once had dinner with an ultra-stingy coworker who tipped $1 on a $50 tab at a restaurant… The service was really good (I felt so bad for the waitress).  How much do you tip your service providers?

Here is the breakdown for how we usually tip:

  • Restaurants = 20%. For exceptional service, we have tipped as much as 100%+ of the bill. In this scenario we typically view the gesture as a form of giving and supporting a world we want to live in (my wife and I delight our customers at work and we think the world would be better if everyone did).
  • House cleaning crew = 30%-50%. We have a crew deep clean our house once a month. It only costs us about $50 (I have a ton of referrals built up that cut the cost) and this gives my wife and I an entire weekend to focus on other activities. She works outside the home as well. When she eventually comes home to stay with our (future) kids, we will cancel this service.
  • Waste haulers = no tip. It hadn’t crossed my mind until I was writing this… I think we will do that in the future. How much would you suggest tipping in this scenario? Think it’s a good idea? How would you gauge the level of service you received?
  • Movers = $50 for every 2 workers that are helping. I WAS a mover back in the day. These guys don’t get paid a lot (the owner presumably does) and they do backbreaking work.
  • Hotel cleaners = $3-$5+ per night we stay. We started doing this a few years ago when a room was well kept for us. I don’t think you HAVE to do this by-the-way. I grew up very poor and I think my wife and I have worked just about every service industry/manual labor job out there. We have a deep level of appreciation for what they do (especially when they do it well!).
  • Car repairman = $10-$40 for each visit with a “medium/major repair” (anything more than an oil change etc.). Hear me on this one. I have an EXCELLENT car repair team (2 older brothers own the show with a small crew). They have literally saved me thousands of dollars via preventative maintenance and they relentlessly avoid charging me for services that aren’t required. Their honesty and integrity goes ”above-and-beyond”. In exchange, I personally go out and shake the hand of the technician that worked on my vehicle and give him a tip.
  • Coffee makers = $100 at Christmas. One of my clients has a coffee crew onsite for their employees. They are world-class service providers. This year I dropped $100 in their “tip jar” to show appreciation. I actually felt like I should have done more. There have been times when the line was long (5-10 minutes) and they have gone out of their way to make my coffee (and one for my client) and bring it over to the table where we were sitting. Classy!!! They don’t ask for payment. We settle up latter. Man… I think I may have closed a deal one time JUST because of that gesture. It shows a potential client I am invested in their community and have great relationships all the way up and down the flagpole.
  • Shuttle driver = I recently started using a shuttle service that drives me into the downtown area of a major city in the northeast for $5 roundtrip. I calculated that it saved me about $50 (gas/depreciation) a day when I used this form of transportation instead of driving my car. I will probably be tipping the driver next year if I continue to use this service (maybe $40? $50?).

Do you think tipping is important? When and why do you tip? How much?!

Radical Change :-)

You MUST make radical changes if you want radical results!!! For WHATEVER change you need to make — make that tough decision today.

Seriously guys!!! 5 years ago we decided we wanted to get out of debt. I was driving a super sweet 2004 mustang. But we weren’t making progress. Guess what I did?! I sold the mustang… WHAT?!?! Yeah and I bought a $1,000 Honda Civic  I drive a nice Lexus now (cash)… But it FIRST took a step of radical action (that snowballed into intense levels of effort in my career) to make the ball move… The ball is stuck — come on!! I did it (I’m nothing special) – you can do it!!! #MoveTheBall

Oh snap I heard you making an excuse just now?!

“My friends and family will make fun of me…”… Who cares!! You will love who you become. It’s OK to be a little weird. If you need someone to support you through the change – reach out to me and I will walk through it with you!!

MOVE THE BALL TODAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

Dance Around the Punches of Life!!!

HAHAHA!! Muhammad Ali dodges 21 punches in 10 seconds… I love the little victory dance at the end.

What an excellent metaphor for how best to take the punches life will inevitably throw at us – be intensely aware of the situation and dance around as many of them as possible with a smile on your face!!!

Sure, you will get knocked down eventually (lose the battle) – but you still have the option to get back up and win the day baby!!!!! Don’t stop!! You got this!! It’s game time.

Can’t touch this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Secret to Achieving Financial Independence

The secret to attaining financial independence is to change who you are as a person.  It is the process of constantly releasing new versions (1.5.3) of who we are and how we live. Wow. That was a bit profound (and cryptic).  But HOW do we change who we are?

Solution: the power of habits.

How do habits work? 

Every habit has 3 components: a queue (trigger), routine (behavior) and the reward.

Most of us focus on the routine when we want to change a habit (“I am going to stop eating food after 8PM so I can lose weight”). This will almost always ensure failure.

It turns out, the magic happens when we focus on the queue and the reward!!

Here is an example of a sloppy middleclass habit: queue = I am bored. Routine = I watch TV. Reward = really inefficient form of entertainment (most of the time). By-the-way, does anyone else think it is insane that the average person (U.S.) will spend 9 YEARS watching TV in their lifetime?!

Here is an example of a financially independent person’s habit: queue = I wake up. Routine = I run outside in the beautiful outdoors! Reward = endorphin crazed happiness (not being bored).  Here are just a few additional rewards:

  • Physical fitness
  • Physiological health
  • Mental health
  • Decrease in personal expenses (increase in net worth)
    • Decrease in healthcare costs
    • Decrease in consumption related costs

One of the most fascinating truths about habits is that they are not located in the part of the brain where we have CONSCIOUS THOUGHT. In other words, we don’t think habits. They just happen. The research says that > 40-45% of everything we do in a given day is a habit.

THE MOST POWERFUL action anyone can take in their quest toward financial independence is learning the process of changing personal habits and using this knowledge to program our brains with habits that automatically lead to wealth creation.

You will find that one of the most difficult parts of changing habits will be (what feels like) the personal rejection of your new behaviors from your current relationships. Some people in your life really like who you are as a person and they really would rather you not change.

For example, if you have friends and family that love to overeat (routine) as a form of socialization (reward), some of these people won’t love the idea that you are changing your habits in order to lose weight. Most of the time they aren’t doing this maliciously, they just don’t like change. Their basal ganglia (where our habits reside in the brain) is programmed a different want. They don’t appreciate your deviation from “normal”.

But you will learn to love change!! Because, it turns out, embracing change is one of the core habits FI people have programmed into their minds (habit)!!

This may require that you replace a few of those friends with people who will encourage, uplift and invest in who you are becoming (as you do the same for them)!!

What habits should we change?

You have probably heard of the Pareto Principle (80-20) rule. 80% of our results will come from 20% of our efforts when we start to learn how to stop being broke all the time and begin learning how to become wealthy and have excellent relationships. Invest heavily in the 20%.

Destroy these old habits:

  • The habit of constant consumption/consumerism
    • This habit often leads to debt
  • The habit of minimal effort
    • This habit is often associated with low income over long periods of time (years)
    • This habit leads people to pay (significantly) more for products and services than necessary
  • The habit of pride
    • This habit often leads to avoiding work that is “beneath you” which can be a very expensive habit
    • This habit can lead to a set of behaviors known as, “Keeping up with the Joneses
  • The habit of negativity and making excuses
    • This habit often limits career potential and systematically depreciates relationships

Program your mind (basal ganglia) with these new shiny automatic habits:

  • The habit of independent thought and curiosity
  • The habit of learning (and learning how to learn)
  • The habit of self-reliance
  • The habit of reducing expenses (that don’t provide disproportionate levels of value to your life)
  • The habit of increasing your income
  • The habit of avoiding unnecessary consumption/consumerism
  • The habit of negotiating
  • The habit of confidence
  • The habit of optimism
  • The habit of working hard
  • The habit of working smart
  • The habit of serving others with excellence
  • The habit of loving work
  • The habit of finding work you love

So am I saying that there are people making 50K a year that could increase their income to 100K a year by simply changing their habits? Yes… That is exactly what I am saying :-)

How would I possibly know this is could be true?

I conducted a 5 year experiment in my own life that took my income from 38K to > 200K right smack in the middle of the “Great Recession”. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can do it. It does require overwriting old habits with new more powerful ones.

A Story – Changing Habits

5 years ago, I had a negative net worth (-$80,000) that consisted of student loans, a car loan, a personal loan and a mortgage.

I distinctly remember staring out the back window of my newly financed (no-money-down) house wondering what the heck I had just done!!  I was enormously stressed out and anxious all the time…  I was taking home $1800 a month in those days. My new house payment was > 40% of my take home pay each month. There was no margin for error.

Those early days were tough.  My future wife and I argued a lot about what we would do with our money each month. We were moving in opposite directions. We began learning how to program our brains with the habit of, “working with your spouse”.

Our net worth has since climbed from -$80,000 to over $225,000 (a swing of over $300,000) in the last 5 years. How could we possibly have achieved this?

We learned the habits required to (enjoyably) keep our personal expenses around 25-35K a year.

We learned the behaviors associated with increasing our income (“certificates of appreciate”!!)

We learned the habits required to become financially independent.

We learned how to buy our time.

We are enjoying the journey of learning how to be content and find deep levels of peace and happiness in our lives. Yes – even contentment and happiness are habits!!! We are in the process of learning what those habits are as well.

Bonus Secret

I played a little trick with the title of this post. The reality is, the insights we unpacked around changing and upgrading habits are really how we attain ANYTHING worth having (including buying our time with financial independence).

  • Do you want to be excellent in your career? Find a mentor who is successful and start modeling their behavior!
  • Do you want an excellent marriage? Find a couple who have a great marriage and take them out for coffee.
  • Do you want to increase the % of income you save every month? Find someone who is a happy-as-can-be super saver and figure out what they are doing, and copy the formula!
  • Do you want to learn how to exude confidence and give a great presentation? You might consider changing your posture! Fake it ‘til you become it (excellent research).

Identifying and systematically upgrading our habits is one of the most powerful ways to change our lives for the better!!

Everything is Negotiable

I needed to get two low beam headlight replaced on Steph’s car this morning – negotiation 101 ensued. Keep in mind that this is at a national, fixed price establishment lol!

Them: “That’s going to be $92 which includes labor.”

Me: “Umm… No… That can’t be right. I know I have paid less to have them replaced before. Can we do better?”

Them: “OK… I don’t think so but maybe we can remove the delivery charge (what?!?… Ignore the details… Focus on outcome… Yes I know, the details are freekin weirdo sometimes… Ignore them… Finish the deal!)”.

Me: “Well dang… I know this ain’t no flea market but how about $50 (for some reason my redneck comes out when I negotiate).”

*Silence*

Them: “We can put a couple coupons in and get it under $60 – will that work?”

$32 of savings for 120 seconds of work. That ain’t bad Bo!!!!!!!!! :-)