Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?

I was on a bike ride with my cousin the other day when she asked, “You used to have all these books on how to be a millionaire and retire young, retire rich…it seems you’re no longer interested…what happened?”

A lot a happened. In short, I don’t want to be a millionaire. I want to be a good steward and if in the process, I become a millionaire, great! In other words, I’m not going to chase money. I want money to chase me.

In the meantime, here are some good stewarding tips that we’ve learned along the way. Feel free to comment or add your own thoughts.

Finances

What I learned from Monopoly

If you are a working DINK (Dual Income No Kids), one investment strategy you may want to consider is owning property. What I like about owning property is that it can generate passive income and your tenants pay down your debt and increase the value (equity) of that property at the same time. Becoming a landlord is not for everyone but there are strategies to avoid bad tenants and alternatives to expensive property management companies. We strongly recommend “Rich Dad Poor Dad” for anyone interested in learning more.

The first step is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. This way you know how much you can afford based on salary before you go shopping. I recommend 3-5 year variable rate, bi-weekly payments, over the shortest term possible (25/30 years)

Second, work with your partner to create a site selection criteria. Write it down as this will help you to stay objective and compare houses

Third, consider rental income as “mortgage helpers”. If you can prove an existing rental, most banks will consider 50% of rent as part of your income assessment

Fourth, buy house and declare as principal residence. Get aggressive in paying down your principal. We made significant lifestyle choices like not paying for cable, eating out less, and spending smart so that we coud make extra payments. The idea is to build equity as fast as you can. Also consider, if your mortgage is 3.5%, paying down the principal is like getting 3.5% return on your buck.

Fifth, once you have built up equity, there will be a tipping point when you can consider taking out a second mortgage against your principal property to buy an investment property. If you get to here, you’re on your way to earning passive income.

Lastly, I would consider converting the mortgage on the investment property to high interest low principal (opposite to advice on principal residence) because you can declare the interest as tax deductible. If you are on salary, you may be able to use this tax deduction to get a tax refund. Which you can then use to pay down the principal on the investment property.

Invest in knowledge

Most people will invest 4 years to get a degree but few will take the time to learn how to manage money. Don’t be intimidated by the lingo you hear on Wall Street. Yes, you will have to learn certain terms and numbers but there are many books out there that are easy to understand. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” is a good starting point. The Wealthy Barber and Millionaire Teacher provide anecdotal stories that are easy to digest. If you subscribe to any Rogers Telecommunication Service or know someone who does, you can get the MoneySense magazine for $1/month.

Bottom Line: Take it from the richest man who ever lived, “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver…For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her” – King Solomon Tenth to Sixth Century BC

 

When not to save

We’re not to meant to live cheap lives. When you start analyzing every purchase and squeezing every cent for all its worth, maybe it’s time to step back and ask if you’re really saving (out of prudence) or hoarding (out of greed). It’s not always an easy tell because it’s a matter of the heart. I’ve learned the best way for me to check is by my giving to others. Try it sometime and you’ll know what I mean.

Bottom Line: “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  – Jesus

Credit Cards: Choose Wisely

Credit Cards are a great way to earn free stuff, keep track of spending, and build up your credit score…if used wisely.

Firstly, when choosing a credit card, stay away from a point system because the ratios are never good. You have to spend 20 thousand to get a coffee grinder that you can get for $15 at Target. Instead, go with either travel rewards or cash back. I like cash back because I get to decide where that money goes. For instance, paying down the credit card, buying something I actually need, or booking a flight without having to deal with charges. By the way, According to Consumer Reports, 78 percent of airlines miles are never redeemed.

Second, call your credit card company to authorize automatic payment on full balance at every billing cycle. Don’t even think about getting a credit card if you’re not going to do this. This way, you’ll never pay interest and you won’t be in debt.

Third, track and monitor your spending at least once a week. We’ve found Mint.com very easy and intuitive to use. It downloads your bank/credit card statements and pools it all into one place. Tag your purchases using smart categories so that every few months, you will know how much you spent on coffee at McDonalds or on groceries.

Bottom Line: Spend only what you have. Never Pay Interest. Pay on time all the time.

Every dollar counts, so count every dollar

If you’re not tracking your spending, you won’t know where and how you can save. At the end of the year, look at your top expenses and decide whether or not you can trim on services or make lifestyle changes – even if you’re saving $10/month, do it because in the long run, you could be saving a lot more.

After our first year of doing this, we realized we were spending close to $2,000 on our phone bill. So we made a few lifestyle changes and decided to share one phone between the both of us. It’s interesting how limiting resources forces you to become more resourceful. We found creative ways to communicate and cheaper alternatives using the internet and 3G network on our iPhone.

We also decided not to have cable. It was hard at first, like coming off a drug, but slowly we were able to wean off our favourite television shows. Not only have we saved thousands of dollars over the past 6 years, we’ve probably gained 1 year of life not wasted on tv shows.

We also noticed that David spent over $500 on coffee/year at Starbucks or Tim Hortons. $3 here, $4 there, it all adds up and eats away at your savings. When you see how just making small adjustments in your lifestyle can save you big at the end of the year, it becomes easier and easier to save.

Bottom Line: Not everything that can be counted, counts. Not everything that counts, can be counted. – Albert Einstein

Considering stocks?

I wouldn’t.

But if you do, make sure you know the difference between investing and speculating. An investment is made after careful examination of the facts and figures. There will also be a proven track record on return while speculating is based on here say or emotion with no track record to back it up.

Personally, I’d only consider Index or stocks that pay out dividends. The Couch Potato is a good read if you’re planning on investing in stocks outside a mutual fund.

Bottom Line: invest only what you’re prepared to lose and walk away from.

Why buy when you can borrow or share?

Buy something if you’re going to use it for a long time. If not, consider borrowing or sharing. Learning to be a good steward of other people’s stuff can save you big. Set clear expectations on return dates and if you break it, own it. A word of caution: Don’t be a mooch! Sharing is a two way street. Offer to share with others in need.

Bottom Line: Why buy new when you can buy used or not buy at all?

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