1. Budget Based on Zero
So, if you haven’t already done so, the first thing you can do to supercharge your finances is to create a zero-based budget, also known as a zero-sum budget.
Most of you are probably already aware of this, and I know many of you who are. Dave Ramsey understands what this is because it is the budget he recommends, but for those who aren’t up to speed, a zero-based budget is one in which every dollar you bring in is accounted for, whether through expenses, investments, giving, or some other means; it doesn’t matter; every dollar has a job before the month even begins.
If you don’t know how to set up this budget, there are tonnes of budget templates out there you can use, just Google “zero-sum budget template” and you’ll get a bunch of them that come up, or you can try out one of the apps that use this method of budgeting, Dave Ramsey’s app Every Dollar being one of those, but there are others that you may find you like better.
The reason this is so important, and why I recommend that everyone do this budget at least once, is that, unlike some other budgeting methods, the zero-based budget is very good at helping you figure out not only where you’re overspending, but also finding areas where you didn’t even realise you were spending money in the first place.
This is because, because every dollar has a purpose, there is no wiggle room and no mystery in the budget.
If you have too much money at the end of the month, it’s either because you overspent in another category, you didn’t earn as much as you expected, or you simply spent money in a category that you didn’t think of before the month began, when you were first creating the budget.
If that’s the case, you’ll have to go back and look at your expenses in detail to figure out what those unaccounted for expenses were, and you’ll have to consider whether or not those expenses were actually necessary.
Finding these “phantom expenses,” for lack of a better term, can be a huge money-saver for a lot of people, especially if you’ve never done a budget like this before.
On the other hand, if you overspent in one category, it forces you to look deeper into that category to see if you can cut that expense down a little bit.
Ideally, this prompts you to consider your priorities and what you truly value spending money on, which is ultimately what a budget is attempting to teach you.
Sometimes you’ll say to yourself, “Yes, I do need this expense, and it does need to be this high,” and if that’s the case, that’s fine; simply adjust your budget in other areas to ensure that you can still make ends meet and meet your goals.
Other times, you’ll discover that there are ways to reduce that expense a little, or even a lot, while still maintaining the standard of living that’s important to you, which can be a huge money-saver, especially if the problem has been discovered on large line items like housing, transportation, or debt.
One thing I’d like to add to this is that cutting back on expenses doesn’t always have to mean spending less on something.
This is especially true in the housing market.
2. Rent evasion
Many people have used various rent hacking techniques, which I will go over in greater detail in future videos, to reduce their effective housing costs.
Rent hacking can take many forms, but the idea is that you lower your effective housing costs by splitting the bills in some way, such as by living with a roommate on purpose or by subletting, or by using your living space to generate an income, such as people who rent out their homes on sites like Airbnb.
They can then use that money to cover their housing costs rather than having to pay for it entirely out of their paychecks.
3. Making the most of tax-advantaged investments.
I realise this is a no-brainer, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant or important.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household income before taxes in 2017 (the most recent year for which data is available as of this writing) is around $73,500 per year.
Depending on whether they are single, head of household, or married filing jointly, this would place them in the 12 percent or 22 percent tax brackets.
With 401K and IRA contribution limits of $19,000 and $6,000 per year for individuals, respectively, there could be thousands of dollars in tax savings. Not to mention other tax-advantaged accounts such as HSAs, ESAs, and 529 Plans, which may or may not be applicable to someone’s situation.
However, those accounts are only for future videos. Today, I’m going to concentrate on the IRA and 401K because they are pretty universally applicable.
Assume a married couple earning $73,500 per year maxes out one 401k and one IRA each year.
In doing so, they would reduce their tax bill by $25,000 and save approximately $3,000 on federal income taxes. That’s a monthly tax savings of $250, not to mention the fact that the investments they made will grow tax-deferred. They could also go the other route and invest in a Roth IRA or a Roth 401k if they had the option to pay taxes now and save taxes later.
We don’t know how much they’ll save because we don’t know what their tax brackets will be when they retire and decide to withdraw their money, but there will be savings. They can also combine the two by putting money into a traditional IRA or 401K now and then taking advantage of the Roth conversion ladder later.
Whatever the case may be, the point is that’s a sizable chunk of savings each year, and because the savings are made through the act of investing over time, compound interest can have a huge impact on your financial picture. At $25,000 per year and an average annualised rate of return of 8% over the long term, they would have saved over $1,000,000 in 19 years, over $2,000,000 in 26 years, and over $6.75 million in 40 years.
And I’m not talking about education in the traditional sense of “go to college and get a degree,” though that can certainly help if you get a good degree that will get you a good paying job.
It’s certainly one option, but that’s not what I’m getting at here.
I’m talking about seeking knowledge that you can apply to your life and your specific financial situation, ideally right now.
Because, seriously, I cannot emphasise this enough: none of us… none of us are born with the ability to be financially successful. Some of us may have had great mentors growing up, and I was very fortunate to have a father who began studying finances and passing that knowledge on to me at a young age, but even with that, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t gone out and sought out other knowledge, insight, and different ideas for myself that he either didn’t know about or that he knew about but was never able to explain to me in a way that I understood.
I’d almost certainly be better off than the paycheck-to-paycheck life that so many people are forced to live because my father provided me with a solid foundation, but I wouldn’t be as far along as I am now.
So, once again, I can’t emphasise enough, seek out as much as you possibly can, whether that’s in the form of blogs, podcasts, and videos, or books and audiobooks, or even seminars at your local library, whatever works best for you, just find something so that you can get those insights, ideas, and apply them to your life.
It is critical to listen to and learn from others. And there’s a great quote that summarises everything better than I could.
“I not only use all the brains I have, but all that I can borrow,” said Woodrow Wilson.
Be that way.
Learn from others; it will not only get you much further on your journey much faster than you could on your own, but it will also most likely save you from making a few critical mistakes along the way.
5. Begin a side hustle.
And your side hustle doesn’t have to be large, extravagant, or expensive. Realistically, it doesn’t even have to be a lot of money to make a significant difference in your life.
Even if you only make $500 per month, it can make a huge difference in your life, even if it isn’t enough to allow you to quit your day job. Assume you used it to get a mortgage loan.
If you recently purchased a home and have a $200,000 30-year mortgage loan at 4% interest, $500 per month would nearly cut your time to pay off that mortgage in half!
From thirty years to fifteen years and five months. It would also save you more than $75,000 in interest.
That’s an average of over $400 in savings per month over the course of that time, which isn’t bad considering it came from a $500 side-hustle income. Or perhaps you don’t have much debt to speak of and have simply decided to go the investing route. $500 per month equals $6,000 per year. That alone is sufficient to fully fund a Roth IRA. Of course, Roth IRAs grow tax-free.
If we assume an annual rate of return of 8% over the long term, your ROTH IRA would grow to more than $100,000 in just 11 years, more than a quarter million dollars in 19 years, half a million dollars in 26 years, and more than a million dollars in 35 years, all tax-free! If you ask me, that’s a significant difference either way!
6. Make some dreamlines for yourself.
So many times when we try to budget, save money, or invest, we fall off the waggon pretty quickly.
No matter how pumped up on adrenaline and motivated we are after reading a money book, watching a video, or listening to a personal finance expert discuss how to change our financial lives, it never works out the way we hoped.
Maybe it’s because we don’t feel like we’re making much progress, or because the market has tanked and we’re panicking, or because we have some unexpected medical bills, or whatever the case may be.
And when we hit these stumbling blocks, it can be very discouraging, sometimes to the point where we give up entirely on changing our financial lives for the better… But why is that? How did we go from being so eager to improve our financial situation to giving up so quickly?
Even with things like unexpected medical bills… yes, it sucks, it really sucks and can set us back a long way, but some people manage to overcome those obstacles and achieve financial independence. So, what are we overlooking? What do they possess that we do not?
Well, it could be different depending on your situation, but I believe that what many of us are missing in those times is a reason to change our financial lives.
It’s not just a reason; it’s our reason. What we lacked was what Tim Ferriss refers to as our “dreamline” in his book “The 4-Hour Work Week.”
A dreamline is anything that you want to have, be, or do by a certain point in time, and it is unique to each of us.
So, how do we discover our dreamlines?
Ferriss suggests making two timelines, one for six months and one for twelve months. In that order, list up to five things you want to have (including, but not limited to, material desires such as a house, car, or clothing), be (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, be a blogger), and do (visit Thailand, trace your roots overseas, race ostriches).
Don’t be concerned about how what you write will be carried out. That can all be worked out later with proper research and planning, much of which can be found on this channel and others like it. For the time being, just concentrate on the dreamlines and trust the process. If you’re stuck for ideas, consider this: What would you do on a daily basis if you had $100 million in the bank?
If you’re still stuck, try replacing the five “doing” spots with the following: One place to go and one thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime) 1 thing to do every day 1 thing to do every week One thing you’ve always wanted to know.
Understanding these “doing” examples may help you decide what you want to have and who you want to be.
The advantage of thinking about dreamlines in this specific detail is that it forces you to figure out what things you really want to have (which will help you better prioritise and allocate funds in your budgets), as well as what you really want to do and be, while also getting you very excited about the possibilities. More than that, if you can get a taste of one of your dream lines, even if it’s on a smaller scale, you can really help keep yourself motivated to keep making and saving money as you run towards your goals, even when times are tough.
If done correctly, you’ll naturally find yourself researching different ways to live your dream lines in the most cost-effective way possible.
When you’re actively looking for ways to make your dream a reality and are open to all the possibilities out there to help you achieve your goals, you’ll find that it usually ends up costing less than you would’ve thought going in. So, if you haven’t already, that would be a good way to boost your finances…probably for a long time to come.
So, think about your dreamlines and try to find a way to test one or two of them if at all possible.
Sometimes you’ll find that your dreamline wasn’t what you expected it to be, and that’s fine; cross it off your list. But eventually, you’ll come across something so amazing that you’ll run through walls to do it again and again and again.
And I promise you that with that kind of consistent motivation and desire, you’ll find it a lot easier to become financially successful while also having a really enjoyable life. It truly is a night and day difference from where most of us are with our finances right now.
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