What if you could have more money without having to work harder to have it? What if you could have more time to do all the fun things you want to do in life? I believe our current economic system can set us up to work long hours, be overwhelmed, in debt and stressed. But life doesn’t have to be like that. We have a choice. It’s up to each of us to hand out more “no’s” to the things we don’t want and more “yes’s” to the things we do—like fun.
This holds true for our careers as well. Too many people spend their lives in jobs they hate—or at the least don’t inspire them—and are underpaid on top of that. I think we all deserve better. I wrote an article 5 Steps to a More Exciting and Lucrative Career to help people just like you find a career they love and make more money. But what’s the point of having more money if you can’t have more fun and good experiences? Sure, having more money can bring us more peace of mind. But after that need is met, it should bring us more amusement.
So I put together a road map to help you prioritize your life so you can have more money while creating more free time so you can have more fun. Below are steps you can take to make this happen:
We are tempted by big corporations to buy, buy, buy. And because most of us fall for their retail hypnosis, we end up having to work harder, and end up possibly in debt. So then we become stuck. The money we owe on our houses, cars, phones, tablets and more become balls and chains that keep us from spending quality time with our loved ones and pursuing our hearts’ desires.
It’s not wonder though. The current system sets you up to fail at this endeavor. With dreamy ads tempting you with the latest phone or car, or finding out your friends just bought a house the size of a hotel, it’s easy for us to fall into a spending trap that gives us more things but ultimately make us less happy.
Sure, having a shiny new toy can bring us delight and can actually have utility—like a new laptop—but how many people on their death beds say they wish they would have bought more things? What those people always want—and what we can learn from them—is that spending time with loved ones is more important.
Cutting back on spending gives you more freedom. The more stuff you have, the more you have to manage and protect—and the more you have to manage and protect, the harder you have to work. A larger home, for example, means more to clean, more to heat and cool and more spaces you have to search when you misplace your keys. You will also pay more when the carpets need cleaned and will have to buy more furniture.
More cars and more expensive ones means you pay more in car insurance and registration and possibly repairs. More “things” means you have to pay for more space—a larger home, a bigger garage, more closet space and more in homeowner’s insurance. Some of you may even be paying for storage for stuff that you don’t even need or use. Not to mention all the money spent to buy these things in the first place.
When you buy less stuff, you don’t have to work as hard because you don’t have to earn more money just to buy more crap. Buying less can even help if you don’t want to be stuck at a job you hate. Lot’s of people get trapped in jobs they despise because they won’t stop buying things. When you buy less, you can save up enough money to leave a job you hate so you can finally start that business or take time off to do the necessary classes to switch to a different career.
Buying less stuff can also improve your relationships. As I explain in my article Divorce and Dollars: How Overspending Can Destroy a Marriage, many couples split up purely over money issues—and often due to one or both people spending too much.
Buying lots of unnecessary stuff also affects children in a negative way. They learn that life should be filled up with things instead of positive experiences, a sense of spirituality and purpose and finding value from within instead of externally.
Parents, too, can spend longer hours at the office to buy their children the latest iPhone or whatever and overlook the irony that they’re spending less time with their kids. Children always think they want more stuff but when they’re older, they won’t remember the endless amount of toys you bought them. Instead, they’ll remember the memories you created with them.
To free yourself from the “work harder just to buy more crap you don’t need” cycle, you need to lighten your load—both in work and the things you own. No one needs a mansion or a luxury car to be happy. Really.
In essence, buying more stuff keeps you trapped and being trapped means less fun. So the next time you think about upgrading to a new phone when you’re current one works just fine or trading in your Mazda for Lexus, make sure you’re not trading in your freedom and future fun for it.
Get That Dream Career and Income
I believe in the adage “work smarter, not harder.” Also I believe your career should inspire you, not be something you hate. On the contrary, you deserve a job that excites and fulfills you. There are people out there who have earned lots of money doing work they love. Why not you?
The best way to merge happiness and wealth is to find a field you’re passionate about, become an expert in that field and start your own business in it. The great thing about starting your own business is that you can grow your income exponentially. When you work for someone else, you will be lucky if you can grow your income beyond 3% a year. Most of the millionaires and billionaires out there are people who started their own businesses in a field they love—and they didn’t work for someone else.
These individuals are prime examples of how starting your own business in a field you’re passionate about can really pay off:
- Jeff Bezos: Founder, Amazon: Worth 134.8 Billion
- Bill Gates: Founder, Microsoft: Worth 97.7
- Mark Zuckerberg: Co-Founder, Facebook: Worth 60.3 Billion
- Mark Cuban: Founded, MicroSolutions: Worth 4.1 Billion
- Elizabeth Holmes: Founder, Theranos: Worth 4.5 Billion
- Doris Fischer: Co-Founder, Gap: Worth 3.5 Billion
Not that you have to become a billionaire to live a great life but none of those people would have become mega-rich if they hadn’t taken the risk of entrepreneurship.
But being passionate about something isn’t enough. You have to be willing to learn all you can about it and then use that knowledge to help other people for a profit.
For example, let’s say you enjoy growing flowers and plants. You could then open a lawn care or floral business. You could help the public by becoming as knowledgeable as possible about flowers and plants and then providing quality facts about successful growing, along with your products and services.
You could have a blog on your business website, have a “care sheet” that goes along with every lawn care service or floral bouquet that you sell and train your staff to be able to answer any questions that may come in from the public. This establishes you as an expert and also builds trust.
Once the public realizes that you are both extremely helpful and friendly, you will become their go-to person for those particular products or services. Then you can charge a solid price for what you offer instead of going the discount route.
You could take this a step further by offering ebooks, seminars or videos online discussing how to take care of your lawn or choose the perfect bouquet for a wedding. Then you make more money on a topic you love and you also open up your customer base to people all over the world.
Also, be sure to leverage other people’s time and skills. What this means is that if you can bill a customer $60 an hour for work you do for them, you should try to find someone who can do that work for your business and pay them, say, $20 an hour.
You can do the same with products. If you can have a product made for $10 and sell it for $30, then you possibly have a successful business in your hands. You become the marketer, manager and intermediary.
You find the work—or offer the product—and then pass it on to another person who is your employee, contractor or manufacturer and then send the completed work or product back to the customer for a profit.
You can also hire people to do the type of work you’re not good at or don’t enjoy doing. If you hate answering phones, for example, you can use a virtual secretarial service to do so. If you’re not good at social media, get someone who is. Just be sure to find someone who is good at what they do but who will bring in more money to your business than what you’re paying them.
Personally, I like to use freelancers. You don’t have to do the messy, complicated paperwork required to have employees. It keeps my life and business simplified—and getting rid of a contractor who does subpar work is a breeze. You can find freelance contractors on sites like upwork.com and freelancer.com.
The main point, though, is that you get contractors (or employees) who not only help bring in more income to your business, but also free you up to do the things you love, including having fun. If you try to do everything yourself, you won’t have time to go on that vacation, indulge in a hobby or even just have dinner with friends and family. Having your own business can be immensely rewarding but take it from me, it can easily take over your whole life.
Finally, you will also get a nice tax break by owning your own business—and save yourself up to roughly 35% on your tax bill. If you have a business, you can deduct all kinds of expenses: your business cell phone, computer, office space, startup costs and insurance premiums.
You can even deduct trips if you travel somewhere for business purposes, which is my favorite. For example, when I was starting my own clothing company, I traveled to LA to the Fashion District to source fabric. Since most of my trip was business-related, I was able to deduct all of my travel expenses, even though I did manage to squeeze in some relaxing time at the beach.
Invest Like a Millionaire
You have probably heard of how important it is to set up a system of automatic investing for yourself—the “pay yourself first” doctrine that states that every month, you should automatically have money deducted from your bank account or paycheck that goes directly into savings and also your retirement account.
This is important on so many levels. If it goes out automatically, you can’t spend it on “junk” you don’t need. And when it comes to your retirement account, you get a tax break too.
When you’re saving for your future, you sleep better at night (i.e. less stress) because you’re finances will be taken care of which in turn means you can relax more and have more fun. If you don’t have a system set up for money to automatically go into your savings and retirement accounts, do this today!
Automatically putting money into those two accounts is the first step. But the second step is equally as important, which is learning at least the basics of investing. One thing I’ve learned in the past few years is that millionaires don’t just save; they invest.
I don’t think making money should be the only goal, however. When choosing an investing vehicle, we need to think about time, energy, stress, worry, hassle and ease. If something is making you a lot of money but it takes up so much of your time that you don’t have time to spend with loved ones, have fun or explore spirituality, what good is it? Based on these additional criterion, I’ve broken down the common investment choices of stocks, bonds and real estate:
As I wrote in my article Why Everyone Should Own Dividend Stocks (A Simple Guide), I think purchasing shares in a solid company that pays a forward dividend yield between 3.3% and 7% is the way to go. You don’t have to have a lot of money to invest, the risk is less than in a lot of other stocks and the dividends can add significantly to your gains in the long run. Also, your investment can be small so you don’t have to go into debt to do it. Very wealthy individuals such as Warren Buffet are know to focus on dividend-paying stocks. This is part of their “secret” to getting wealthy.
Bonds are typically less risky then investing in stocks but they also historically return less. Since 1926, long-term government bonds have returned 5 to 6% versus 10% for large cap stocks.
The 5 to 6% rate of return outpaces historical rates of inflation but, currently, the rate of return on most bonds return a rate that is right around the rate of inflation or even below it.
The other tricky aspect of bonds is that you often need 5K or more as a minimum initial deposit with a broker. You can, however, invest in bond funds for as little as $100. Bond funds diversify by investing in a variety of bonds which also helps minimize risk.
If I were to invest in a bond fund, I would look for one that had a current yield of at least 3%, otherwise I wouldn’t feel like the investment was worth it. I would also look at the fund’s expense ratio, which is the annual fee that all funds charge their shareholders. Obviously, the higher the fee, the less money in your pocket.
You can find bond ratings and stats on investment sites. The one that I trust the most is The Motley Fool (www.fool.com) and investopedia.com. (Just search “current bond fund rates” in your browser.)
Also, there are mutual funds that can have a certain percentage of their holdings in bonds. In fact, if you have a mutual fund through your IRA or 401(k), it is quite likely that you are already invested in bonds. Log in to your investment account to find a break down of your mutual fund–as in, the percentage your mutual fund has invested in stocks versus bonds.
Because understanding bonds can be a bit complicated, choosing a mutual fund that invests in both stocks and bonds is a much easier and less risky route. Personally, I don’t choose individual bonds or even bond funds and leave it to the my mutual fund manager to choose for me.
In my opinion, investing in real estate is actually riskier than investing in dividend stocks because most people have to go into debt to do it. There is also a lot of paperwork and other people involved in the process, such as the real estate broker, lender, appraiser, the seller and more.
You also have to consider maintenance costs, property taxes and insurance. Contrast this with buying stocks, which you can do with the click of your mouse and no one else has to be directly involved.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make money off of buying property, though. Of course there are lots of people out there who have made millions from investing in real estate.
But the mistake that most people make is thinking that their primary residence is a source of wealth. This is often not the case. If the value of your property goes up, it likely means that the value of the property around you has gone up as well so if you were to sell your home a buy a similar home in the same area, you’ve gained nothing.
However, if you own a beachfront property in California and sell it to move to a small town in Iowa, you will have gained a lot. But the opposite holds true: If you own a home in a small town in Iowa and want to move the beach in California, you’ll see just how little money you’ve made from the sell of your home.
You also have the constant issue of maintenance, repairs and general upkeep. Who wants to spend their weekends mowing a lawn, painting a fence or dealing with a broken furnace? I’ve chosen to rent for years because I don’t have to worry about any of that. If something breaks or there’s some other issue, I walk 2 minutes over to my apartment’s club house, tell a member of staff and let them deal with it. This frees me up to do more enjoyable things.
You could consider buying property and then renting it out. But this can be a lot of work and definitely diminishes the fun factor. You will inevitably have problems, from a leaky faucet to tenants who skip out on rent.
You can hire a property management company to handle these issue for you but keep in mind you will still need to be involved to a degree. The property management company will have to come to you with any major concerns or issues and you could end up having problems with the company itself as well. You also open up yourself to liability. What happens if someone falls on your property or your tenant discovers she’s been living with black mold?
To me that’s too much work, worry and hassle. In order to have fun, life has to be simplified and that’s bringing complication into my life—which is why I choose to rent and will never invest in real estate.
Feed Your Soul
If all we ever think about is making more money and material things, we can still find ourselves feeling empty. It’s also easy to lose your moral compass as your net worth grows. Money doesn’t solve every problem. Divorces still happen, kids still get off track, people pass away…Life can be full of sadness and tragedy that even money can’t fix.
Despite these tragedies, happiness and contentment can still endure if you take the time to feed your soul. Having a career you love will certainly help. So can taking the time to do something you enjoy outside of work, like going for a hike, reading a book or talking to a friend on the phone.
Having a sense of spirituality can also help, too. What do you believe in and value? Do you know what your purpose in life is? Do you know what kind of person you want to be, if you’re not already there? Do you have a spiritual place you can turn to when something bad happens (as it inevitably will at some point)? If we don’t put these spiritual foundations in our lives before tragedy strikes, we won’t know what to do with ourselves when it does.
I bring this up in this article about more money and fun because part of the secret to having more fun in life is finding internal peace. People who are at peace with themselves are the ones who are truly experiencing the most enjoyment out of life. They are the people who seem like they’re glowing when they walk in the room; they are the ones who seem to “have it all.” They are also the ones who would never do something unethical just to make another dollar; they know how to make money the right way.
You Can Have It All
Life is so much more than just money. Yes, really. I started this blog to hopefully help others see that you can strive for more money while inviting fun and peace into your life. You don’t have to sacrifice values or all your time for money. And you don’t have to be stuck at a job you hate either.
Sure, there are plenty of people out there who make millions and even billions of dollars who are workaholics who never spend time with their loved ones. Some of them are also unethical people. And even more of them are doing it through work that has no meaning to them. We don’t have to be like them. We can get rich without losing ourselves or forgetting what truly matters. Our spirits will grow—not just our bank accounts.
And that, my friends, is true wealth:)