How I plan on reaching my financial goals

“Strong opinions loosely held.”

-Marc Andreessen

If you haven’t already been able to tell, I am a big fan of quotes. I use them as “bite-sized” reminders of important ideas I have learned over the years. I have a file on my computer where I write down any quote I want to remember, and from time to time I’ll look back at the file and review all the ideas I have learned to make sure they are fresh in my mind.

The way I think about quotes and lessons learned from people more successful than me is they are sort of like a successful uncle or aunt. For example, I have a successful uncle who I turn to for professional advice. As he has had a lot of success in business, he can give me his advice on major decisions I have to make as he has much more perspective than I currently do. I can learn from mistakes he made along the way and he can teach me lessons that were taught to him. In this same way, I try to use the lessons learned by other people, i.e. successful olympians, famous investors, corporate legends, etc. to help me avoid making the same mistakes they made.

With that in mind, I wanted to write a post talking about how I plan to reach financial freedom.

When Marc Andreessen stated “strong opinions, loosely held,” what he meant is its important to have conviction behind your opinions. Conviction leads to action which is important in making progress. However, at the same time, you can’t be too attached to your opinions as you won’t be open to criticism or feedback that clashes with your opinion. Therefore, I believe firmly in my current plan and am going to go all in in moving forward. At the same time though, I’m constantly trying to keep an open mind to criticism and adjust my plan as necessary.

I was motivated to write this post by a few reasons:

  1. To help me clarify to myself what my plan is so I am not just blindly trying to do a million different things with no direction
  2. To break down the idea of financial freedom in to more tangible steps I have seen work first hand
  3. To possibly give people the first few steps they can take to get the ball rolling

My plan for achieving financial freedom

The first thing I want to say is this plan is something I am still developing, however, I can talk about what I have put together so far. The ultimate goal here is to get to a point where the passive income I receive each month not only exceeds my expenses, it gives me a nice cushion to not have to worry about doing the things in life I want to do. Things like take spontaneous vacations, helping my family members out with their mortgages, donating to charity, etc. I also think it is a good idea to have income coming in from diversified sources so you aren’t too dependent on any one thing which is why I list a few different ideas below.

Real Estate

The first taste of passive income I can remember in my life is through the ownership of real estate. I have a few family members who happened to own investment properties in different parts of the US. They taught me if done right, these can be avenues to have your money truly work for you. For example, if you have decent-to-good credit and enough money to put a down payment on a house, you can potentially purchase a property and then rent it out for a profit – a profit in regards to both monthly cash flow and an increase in the value of the house over time.

Sure, there are potential headaches with owning a property. Things like having horrible tenants who don’t pay rent or who damage your property, having to deal with finding new tenants, dealing with repairs, having to manage renovations and the costs that come with them, the list goes on. Having helped family members manage their properties, I can say from personal experience all of these things do suck. However, I can also say many of these things are more of the exception and less the rule. Plus, as the famous quote goes “no risk, no reward.” As I have learned from many successful investors, the goal is to hedge your bets so the reward greatly outweighs the risk.

With that in mind, I definitely plan on having real estate play a role in my plan. The reality is with the median price of a house in the Bay Area being $900,000, you would  need around $187,000 in cash for a down payment. Not an easy task to do for the average person. Without digging in to the topic of real estate too much, there are other options available such as investing in real estate out-of-state, waiting until market conditions are better for buyers, and many other options. Though I do have experience in the purchasing, management, and renovating, of single-family properties I still consider myself an amateur and in no position to give advice. For now, I’ll stick to documenting my journey and will share any lessons I learn along the way.

E-commerce

Whenever you buy and sell something using the Internet, you’re involved in ecommerce. E-commerce is something I am very new to so I’m hesitant on talking about any tactics or giving advice, however, I have seen close friends make considerable profits through its use so I know it can work.

I’m not here to talk about whether ecommerce is good or not, I wanted to talk more about the low barrier to entry of setting up a shop, whether that be on Shopify, Etsy, Amazon, etc. and then finding products. One of my friends who has her own shop walked me through 4 basic steps it takes to create an ecommerce shop:

  1. Go to one of the many ecommerce sites available (Etsy.com, Shopify, etc.) and create a shop
  2. Add products and see how the market reacts (Are people viewing your product? Have you made any sales? Is anyone favoriting your product?)
  3.  Adjust as necessary (Adjust pricing, research popular products and try creating similar listings, work on marketing, etc.)
  4. Repeat

This is what she did until she found a product that got traction. Once she got traction she went all in and now her store brings in pretty reliable income each month with minimal work required. Sarah over at unsettle.org has a great post breaking down how to set up an etsy shop without getting lost in all the details. I personally used her post to help me get my shop up and running within 2 days. Is my shop perfect? Nowhere near it, but rather than spending all this time researching and waiting until I knew everything about opening an ecommerce shop (which never would have actually happened…), I have a public shop with real products that customers can view and buy. Now my job is to continue to test new products, review the results, and adjust as necessary which I think is MUCH easier now that I have some momentum on my side.

Rethinking the income from my job

I mentioned the book “Your Money or Your Life” in a previous post as it was recommended to me by a friend who had achieved financial independence. I recently finished the book and am now reading it for the 2nd time to let it sink in a bit more. For anyone interested in learning more about the pursuit of financial independence, or honestly just interested in hearing about an alternative way to think about money, I highly recommend it.

One of the interesting takeaways from the book has to do with something referred to as the 4% rule. For those who aren’t familiar with this rule it essentially boils down to this:

Imagine you have all your retirement savings invested in stocks or other assets. If you assume appreciation in price and dividends paid out equalling a total growth of 7% each year before inflation, and then deduct 3% for yearly inflation, you are left with approximately 4% of growth. Therefore, you need to calculate a retirement savings high enough that you can live off the 4%. To calculate this number, you need to figure out your yearly spending and multiply it by 25.

For example, if you spend $5,000/month – you will need to save up $1.5 million dollars ($5,000/month*12 months/year*25) to be able to retire and live off the interest.

Mr. Money Mustache has a full blog post on this topic you can find here. He outlines where the rule comes from and backs it up with examples and data. For me, the takeaway here is I now have a set number I can work towards instead of retirement being this mystical thing I never really put my thought in to. I can more or less estimate what my monthly spending may be based on my lifestyle, then, with this number I can figure out how much money I would need to be able to retire and live off the interest. At that point, my focus will be on reducing my yearly spending and doing everything possible to increase my income.

So, there you have it

As of today, my focus is on building my ecommerce shop into a cash flow positive business, calculating my retirement savings number as a figure to work towards, and investigating real estate investment properties as a future avenue of producing income and generating wealth.

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It’s the same thing, fear, but it’s what you do with it that matters.” – Cus D’Amato”

My biggest takeaway from all of this is I learned the importance of taking action! I used to be the person that spent all his time researching and learning, but I rarely did any output. Now I realized at some point you just have to get started, you are going to make mistakes and probably be really bad in the beginning, but you will learn quickly and by just getting started you are probably already ahead of 90% of people out there.

As a progress check, I created my ecommerce shop and have around 42 products listed. I’m starting to get more and more views but haven’t made any sales yet. I’m playing around with a lot of different types of products and as I view other people’s successful shops I’m getting more and more ideas of the types of products I can create. I’m also realizing it might be a good idea to look in to marketing my shop on social media as at the moment I am depending solely on traffic being generated through searches alone. I’ll continue to post updates on any successes I have or lessons I learn as they happen. Until then, thank you for reading!

Are you already on the path to financial freedom or interested in starting? I would love to hear from you! Let me know in the comments.

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