I’m a hustler baby.. That’s what I am.. You may not even know it by my calm and collected composure from the above picture, looking all fly with my white suit and my two cats… LOL… but I’ve been pushing my goals forward. Scoring points on each end of the floor. Whether it’s 9-5 or personal investing. I keep myself moving at all times. well.. except when I’m stuck in traffic after work, which is just about everyday.. yup, it’s painful.. (soon it will be no more). But what is not painful is – learning to invest. Especially when you are willing to invest toward a better financial future for yourself and/or your family. The past year, i have continued my financial journey and continue to grow as an active investor.
In less than two years, my wife and I increased over half a million dollars in net worth. $630,000 turn around, from Negative to Positive
I started writing my personal financial blog March of last year so I will be accountable for the goals and promises that I make to myself. Each time i write, I believe its a winning proposition as it helps me to be more focused, better organized and keeps me reminded of my goals as I tackle the day to day challenges. I’m still wet behind the ears investor, but I strive to be better, and the experience I’m gaining have proven to be invaluable. There are mix of good and bad, and wins and losses but I learn from each and every transaction and experiences as I hit each milestone on my way to achieving my financial goals.
It helps when you have a positive attitude and get yourself excited which keeps the flames going. My personal empowerment is through the roof right now because I feel that I’ve grown as a person who is capable of things beyond my day to day job. On the finance side, the things I can do now, the lessons I’ve learned, and the experiences I’ve gained, I’ve never thought possible just several years ago.
No Pain, No Gain
Sure, there are times, I am burned out, but I think about the end goal, the beach, the white sand, and to one day to make it my everyday. I push and remind myself to Keep Moving Forward. Sometime the simplest words can carry you a long way. Too much thinking can make you soft and hesitant. We all fell victim to the daydreams. I did a lot of that before… and the more I do, it’s harder it is to take my ideas off the ground, because I often over think myself into doubt.
Keep Moving Forward – Sometimes the simplest words can carry you a long way.
Over time, I learned to make quicker financial and investment decisions, whether it’s buying a house, hiring a contractor, or picking a mutual fund. Some of the decision are becoming easier to make now because I have clear set of goals. If the investment aligns with my goals, then its an easy choice as long as I can afford it. If the investment does not align with goals, then it’s even an easier choice, I just don’t do it and move on. I may not get it right each and every transaction but I can course correct along the way. You all know this – sometime the hardest part is getting it started.
As I’m reminded of the past which I outlined in my first blog, An Average American Family, even until couple of years ago, my family was in financial uncertainties and doubt. Not that we were broke, although there were tougher times. My wife and I were like most middle class American families with mortgage, high expenses, living paycheck to paycheck and much more debt than income. We were at $230,000 in debt from mortgage, student loan, etc. And it was hard to see beyond tomorrow and we certainly did not have clear plans toward retirement.
The remedy to the financial troubles for me really boiled down to working on these key factors.
- Improving my financial literacy
- Getting rid of my highest expenses
- Start investing
The person who was in the best position to help me and my family was me. If i didn’t get up and do something about it, then things would have remained the same. There is no expert that can come in and tell you to fix your years of bad habits. You have realize it for yourself and correct them over time. Two years ago, if hadn’t made the decision to pick up the personal finance books or make the tough decision to sell my house at a big loss, I could of easily been stuck in same place now as I was two years ago, with a forever mortgage and baggage that comes with being a distress seller. But i’m not, because I took a hold of my financial future and I lead it to the direction I want to take it which is the same course I’m on now.
Before, I didn’t know which direction or couldn’t tell from the head to tail. I fixed my financial troubles by being honest with myself, first acknowledging my faults, getting it out in the open, and tackling the issues one bill or expense at at time. And more importantly, the wealth of financial education guided me to make these tough cleanup decisions and helped me to setup for a better financial future. Further more, investing in my financial education led me to various forms of investing including Real Estate and improving on my retirement savings. I’m still no expert in any of these, but I have enough experience that I can trust myself to make solid financial decisions.
Past Year’s Progress since April 2014 – March 2015
I went in in depth last March, providing income statement but on this post, I’m going to keep it a high level.
- Real Estate Investing –
I’ve acquired 3 single family homes and most are for rentals. I own total of 6 single family homes and 4 out 6 are completely paid for with 5th one I’m hoping to pay off by May. These aren’t the best looking houses that I can show off to friends and family but they are decent properties that will make some family a good home for years to come. The houses I own are market value between $50k – $110k.
- Retirement Savings
Between my wife and I, we were able to raised our 401k/IRAs retirement savings to around 90k, that is an increase from $48k last year. I didn’t have much on 401k to begin with because early days in my career, I was involved in a startup, Zipscene. And you know about the startup, a high growth potential but it can be a financial risk. I made next to nothing in the beginning, so I spent existing 401k and credit cards to pay for bills. Later, I made more, but it took a while to get caught up. On IRA, I did not have much toward IRAs because I didn’t have a good understanding or the benefits of IRA until later years. Infact, it was finance intern at work who schooled me on Roth IRA… He’s dad was a financial planner Now that I know the value of it, our family max out yearly contribution toward Roth IRAs as long as we are eligible, which we are. I’m not rich and won’t be for a while but I want to get there.
- Other Liquid-able Assets
So I’m still cash poor. I have little more money in the bank at the moment, thanks to my employer’s awesome yearly bonus.. but almost gone now due to paying off so much cost and expenses from purchasing properties. I still have 3 used cars.. I guess they are worth something..
- Increased Debt/Expenses
Yup, I have a lot.. Currently I have $147k in debt according to my mint.com account. There’s wife’s student loans and a lot have been added from purchasing properties to rehab repairs, and I have a lot more expenses coming up this year… But for most part, I look at is as good debt because it’s spending toward investments and acquiring assets. And most of my debt have super low interest rate and low monthly payments. And I have one mortgage, I’m trying to close out early this year. I try to avoid mortgages as much as possible.
- Overall Net Worth Increase to roughly $400k
Since past March (+$186,000 in 3/2014), I’ve added over +$200k worth of net assets that includes properties and retirement funds. So in the past two years, I went from negative -$230,000 in debt to positive $400,000 in net worth. That means, I’ve increased over half a million dollars in net worth in two years. That’s right.. Play my theme song below.
I have to admit, there were downside to being too focused and driven. The past year, I have made less time for myself and my family. My health suffered as well, because i was eating unhealthy and not exercising which contributed to having a kidney stone. That was crazy man. I don’t wish that on my worst enemy. I was reminded there are far more important things in life than money and being able to retire early. But it does not need to be mutually exclusive. This year, I’m working to improve on these areas so I’ll have a better balance between work, investing, and family.
Everyone have their priorities; kids, health, career, etc. Whatever makes us happy, we should do more of it. But often times, we get caught up in our daily routines and responsibilities that we forget that we have to do a little more to make better of ourselves and prepare for the rainy days. It’s easy to put future plans in the back burner when you have to live for now.. get the groceries, prepare dinner for the kids, go to work, play video games… But the longer you wait, it can only result in taking the long road to retirement at the age of 62 to never. If you think you can wait that long, you either really enjoy what you are doing, have a lot more patience than me, and/or you don’t know that there are better options.
I firmly believe, you don’t have to wait that long for retirement. With little dose of financial education and sparks of motivation, you can save yourself years of working at a job. I don’t know when this early retirement will happen for you but i have plan that I’m working toward. Till then, I am grateful that I have a day job and i will continue to work hard to make things happen. Because the reality is for most people, including myself, you need your day job and it is very important to have one for all the obvious reasons and beyond, from being able to pay your bills to getting a loan.
Keep Your Day Job
Most people complain about working but what if you didn’t have a job? You would be screwed… But luckily there are plenty of jobs out there. If you don’t have one or don’t like your current job, go get you a new one. It’s really that easy.. Right?..No? Nothing is worse than stuck in a job you don’t like or don’t enjoy. So I hope you are happy where you are or hopefully find the one that you like. And having a job certainly can enable you as an investor. So continue cranking at your day job but don’t ever lose focus.. Till you get to a point, you don’t have to rely on your paycheck. That’s the dream (or a goal), getting out of the Rat Race.
Don’t Wait Till Tomorrow To Plan For Tomorrow
Yes it’s time. Start writing down your goals today. I’m convinced, it’s never too late or never a bad time to start improving your financial education and start investing. I highly encourage you to pick up a book or two on investing, write down some of your goals that includes short term and long term goals, how to get there, by when, etc. Again start writing stuff down, put it in a place that’s visible. and keep yourself reminded of you goals as often as possible. Take the action today. Its time to hustle!
- An Average American Family (Part 2 – Improving Financial Literacy)
- Rich Dad, Poor Dad.
- Millionaire Investing Teacher
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