I love real estate. I listen to podcasts about real estate for fun. When I have access to cable television I will choose HGTV, Income Property is, of course, my favorite! I love touring houses, especially the really old gross ones that can be transformed into something beautiful. I have been involved in many complete renovations and even a new build. I have become very skilled at most things it takes to renovate a home, construction, and design. I love negotiating a deal.
Real Estate is kinda my thing.
So, I decided to get my Real Estate Agent License, the entry requirements seemed pretty low in Arizona, and we have some of the higher requirements in the US. Minimum of 18 years old, 90 hours of licensure course, background check, and pass a state and school. All in for the license I was looking at under $1000, for a career with unlimited earning potential what a steal!
So I enrolled in a local quality school. It became very clear that with a few exceptions the bulk of the course was about legality. I enjoyed learning all of it, but there was a theme throughout the course that troubled me. Refer out most knowledge, do not give opinions on most things to avoid fault, and full disclosure of any facts you do get. (Which most often seemed to be in a huge page that people would skim because of so much legal talk.)
Okay, Okay, I get it, my knowledge about anything other than real estate sales and marketing should not be used in this. I passed the test with ease.
Then I started looking for a brokerage to work for. This was very eye opening; the big companies straight up wanted half of everything I made. This was usually till I had paid them up to some cap which in our area was around $20,000. I also had to pay for all my consumables, marketing, insurance, MLS Access, associations, and necessities. I managed to find a more human, charitable, local brokerage company, Tierra Antigua, which didn’t seem like my wallet was their bottom line. So they are out there! However, it had become very clear, very fast that I was now a walking milkshake and everyone had a straw.
It got worse.
I was thrust into an environment that was all about how to close. Everyone who spoke to me, save a few, just sounded like a predator talking about the kill. Sales is an intense world.
So where did that leave me? A person who wants to tell people:
Selling your home is costly, and if you’re hoping to make money and not just break even or lose money in real estate, you need to hold on to that house as long as possible if there has not been significant forced appreciation (Owner fixing the house), or market appreciation. (Your neighborhood prices are skyrocketing.)
That the big American dream home is an unhealthy obsession and provides a lower quality of life.
That signing an agreement with me locks you into a decision for a period of time, and I like choice?
That house while pretty on the surface could be a potential nightmare, for this, this, and that reason.
Honestly, if my being a Realtor were our main source of income, I would have a quit a while ago and used my Real Estate Salesperson Licence for one of the other many jobs it affords; or maybe sold out and hustled? I am not a shark, nor do I fit in with them. Perhaps, if I felt more positively towards American consumerism, it would be a better fit for me. Right now, I keep it to help friends, family, or maybe someone who wants be told what they need to hear instead of want. But, sadly, they do not seem in high supply. The access to the MLS is also a great perk, as we are investors ourselves, and it is an amazing tool.
What is your experience with Realtors? If you are one, have you experienced the same thing?
While perusing the internet this week, I came across several advertisements for financing your wedding. Because there is nothing that says we are ready for the next chapter of our lives like starting it with a massive debt. Curious, I investigated more. Washington Times reported that the average price of an American wedding had reached a mind-boggling $35,329!
WHAT! On a party?
This amount could send that couple on good economic footing into the world. 35,000 dollars is a great downpayment on a home in most states or even a paid in full, flat-out cash price on some fixer uppers or condos.
It could allow that couple to house hack and cover all of their housing expenses!!! Why would anyone in their right mind finance a wedding?
Where are the friends and families not condoning excess and telling the perpetrators of such wastefulness what they are doing? TIME reports as of 2016 that 1 in 3 people have no retirement savings and that 72% of millennials have less than $10,000 in savings.
Where did we go wrong?
When did declaring our love for someone for our all our friends and families to nourish and protect become a pinnacle of American consumerism?
Does having the $3,000 dress instead of the $300 one say our love will last forever? Well it better, because that debt probably will stick around for a while.
But guess what, it does not, in fact quite the opposite.
On average, if you spend more money on your wedding ring and wedding, the marriage is less likely to last! The professors went on to hypothesize that it was possible that the economic stress of the debt from the wedding was what caused such outcome.
Do we need more reasons to be fiscally responsible, on this special day?
It goes on further to say:
“evidence suggests that the types of weddings associated with lower likelihood of divorce are those that are relatively inexpensive but are high in attendance.“
So if you want that marriage to last, go cheap, but don’t skimp on the people.
I didn’t know all this when I got married, but this is exactly what I had.
A big, cheap wedding.
This is what I did to get the wedding that I wanted without busting my budget, all said and done I think I ended up paying less than $2000 for 80 people:
Buy many of the things you would normally rent. And then sell them back on ebay.com, craigslist.com, or a Facebook group. Net after the sale will be a fraction of the cost to rent. It is usually pretty easy to do in bulk, but you can get more back separate. I got all sorts of things on Amazon.com: Wedding Fairy Lights, Table Runners, Table Cloth, Vases, and anything else you can think of!
Choose a cheap venue. We did a backyard wedding, and it was wonderful. Other places that are cheap are city parks, national parks, and some other public facilities.
Get a pre-owned wedding dress. Using an expensive dress for one day is wasteful. I bought something that I had tried on at a store for half-off the tag. And guess what you can sell it again afterward!! I used Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, and I have nothing but good things to say about them. Many of the dresses offer returns.
Get a Birthday Cake! I went wedding cake shopping and was disgusted both with the level of quality and the price. Instead, I decided to go to my local bakery and ordered three all white birthday cakes. They were amazingly good and a fraction of the cost.
Rent the tables and chairs, make sure to shop around and don’t mention that it is a wedding.
Don’t skimp on the Wedding Photographer. This was the one thing I wish I hadn’t gone cheap on. Still, there are so many amazing photographers out there I would choose one that isn’t huge on the wedding circuit to get more value.
Food. This was my biggest expense. I had my favorite restaurant cater a buffet. The meal was my chosen splurge for my guests that made my wedding feel not low budget at all.
Get flowers in bulk. I ordered 450 roses in three beautiful colors from Sam’s Club.
Have family help out! Some family members will want to help share in your big day; this is an awesome way. Those flowers need to be arranged, the chairs set up and moved, maybe you have a cousin who would rather give some time than cash for a present!
How do you feel about the modern American wedding? What was your wedding like or what are you planning?
I often see these memes about adulting: the burden, the monotony, the reluctance. When did we decide it was normal to hate what we do day in and day out. Did we make a conscious choice to spend most of our time doing something we hate to get money? Or did it just happen? Why do people accept that the route to success is plodding away at a job for the majority of our lives, and the whole of our most productive ones at that?
So what happens when you say, F*** it! I don’t want to be a part of this system anymore! Well, that is what I did, I quit my job, put in my 30-day notice on my apartment, and sold all my stuff. Everything that I owned could fit within the confines of one backpack.
I had no home.
I had no fixed expenses.
What I owned:
Five lightweight pants.
Five pairs of underwear.
Five lightweight Camis.
One pair of sandals. (Which at one point were stolen and replaced with 2 dollar thongs)
Airplane sized toiletries.
A super pack of hair ties.
A small laptop.
A water camelback.
THAT. IS. IT.
In the whole world!
I got a one-way ticket to Europe on the proceeds of my stuff and embarked on some of the best times of my life. I did work trades for room and board, which usually required around 25-30 hours a week of work to take care of all my needs.
I worked on a peace farm, the vineyard of a pair of circus performers, I lived with a British couple renovating an old castle into a B&B… which was complete with a haunting story and a dungeon. I met interesting people, a villain from the old Bond movies who made a kick ass shepherds pie and referred to the local villagers as his “minions”. An old man who had traveled around the world by sailboat and had met Salvador Dali. Peace activists who protested on the corner every week, I joined in! A man who got called away to advise huge companies during the 2008 financial collapse. And I mentioned the circus performers, right? They juggled chainsaws!
I found other kindred souls, and we would travel together for a month or two. People from all over the world who would give me a glimpse into life in their home country.
I learned about life in other cultures and saw things I will never forget.
I hitchhiked. I showered at many public facilities. I got acquainted with everything free, libraries, festivals, public pools, and most importantly nature. I ate weird local delicacies and pub hopped with a few of my hosts.
My biggest takeaways:
Life is about experiences, not accumulation.
Love people, not things.
Material things only hold you down from true freedom.
You might be asking, well why are you not still doing this if it was so awesome! My now husband and I ended up getting pregnant and could not live by the seat of our pants anymore. The desire is still there, and now our family is close to going back out on the road again. This time with a different kind of freedom.
At the heart of this is breaking out of the norm. To create your system. Which is what I’m trying to do now. Or, you live outside of it, which is what I did when I chose to be homeless. You can live a life where you choose how to spend your time. You can do this the easy way by living outside and eschewing everything and live in the flow of the world. Or you can put in some serious work and break the system!
I would also like to give a shout out to the homeless who did not get there by choice. And while I would like to tell those who are capable, that there are options. Some just are not and in my opinion are a symptom of a sick society. Homeless and Housing Charities.
That means 50% of people are living paycheck to paycheck in America.
For those 50%, I would like to tell you that this is not how it has to be. In fact, I would like to tell everyone toiling away with no plans of retirement or even those who want to take the standard age 65 retirement. That not only can you survive but can thrive! You can even retire early if you want to!
There are 4 Parts to Freedom!
There are many ways to reach financial goals and everyone has different views of what they want their lives to look like. People who lead you to believe that the only option to success is their proven method, or by buying their product are lying! The main goal is to be better off tomorrow than you are today, try to at least do something on the list, and if you want to never worry about money again, do all of them.
Part 1. Lower your cost of living.
Take a hard look at your life. Are you working for your needs or your wants? The first step to never worrying about money again is to lower the baseline amount of how much you need. I spent a year owning only the contents of one backpack, nothing else in the world. It was freeing. It was just me. I went to a country where the dollar went further, and I was thriving on less than $500 a month. Now I am not suggesting to you to go to these extremes. I only use it as an example of what is possible.
Don’t look at this step as a negative impact on your life, getting rid of things that hold you down only allows you to rise. Also, if you need less to live, you need less to retire!
If you have never written out a budget to get an idea of how much is going and out and where of your bank account, Mint.com is a great place to get started, and it is free. It also has a net wealth calculator built in.
Sell any large asset that is not making you money if at all feasibly possible. That means the huge house you are filling up with useless stuff. That means the car worth over $10,000 is gone. Unless your net worth is over a million, these cannot be considered reasonable.
Cut down any monthly expenditures you can, find a cheaper cell phone, pare down to only one entertainment source, call all your current providers and see if there is a way to lower your bill, don’t eat out as much, cut out as much frivolous spending as you can.
Part 2. Increase the amount of money you are earning.
So let’s say you get through Part 1, you have reduced your cost of living substantially, and you are still struggling to keep your head above water to live let alone to invest or pay off debt. It is time to increase your baseline income, find a better paying job. If you get through Part 1 and you’re looking like you are going to be able to make a lot of motion with your ocean, it never hurts to get a little more and get that tide a little higher.
Look for a new job in your same field. Find someone who will pay you more, use that current job to leverage you into more money!
Get a second job. Or, if there is a spouse at home consider them taking on a small job while the main breadwinner is home. I don’t advise this just for life quality, but it is an option for speed, or if the situation is dire.
Low earnings in your field? Switch it! Look for paid apprenticeships in construction, like plumbing and electricians. Jobs which provide their training like Emergency Services (police officers, dispatchers, firefighters.), or drivers (Truck, School Bus, Boat.) which often train you to get your Commercial Drivers Licence (CDL) which can be a huge money maker. See: How to get a high paying job with no debt involved!
Go back to school. This can be a rough one. First, the earning potential of the job you will get from going back to school has to be very good. Make sure that one year of your projected salary can cover your whole debt incurred plus any lost income you could have been making during the time I took to complete it. Make sure to shadow your projected career, or find some volunteer job around it to see if it is a fit for you first. There is nothing worse than incurring a bunch of debt only to hate what you got out of it.
Part 3. Kick debt in the teeth.
I am not of the opinion that all debt is bad. Would it better to have no debt, YES! But, I believe in the power of leverage. Using student loans to leverage you into that job that makes you much more income. Using mortgages to get you into and possibly renovate an investment property that yields cash flow after all expenses. Getting a small business loan to grown your company and your earnings.
The key for those is the end goal must be worth it, and you must complete the task the loan allowed you to do. You have to be getting more out of the debt then the lenders are getting out of you.
Consumer debt is typically the anti-thesis of being financially healthy. This includes cars, credit card debt, any debts that are not currently making you more money than the interest they are charging you. You cannot do Part 4, investing in yourself while you have consumer debt, the interest they are charging simply cancels all gains you are getting elsewhere.
Cut up your credit cards or make them inaccessible to yourself. (I’ve heard of people freezing them in ice and keeping them in the freezer.) I do not advise canceling them because it generally does not help your credit score.
If you keep unfreezing those cards, it is time to have none at all.
Don’t sign up for credit cards for the free rewards or discounts, especially if you have a track record of racking up debt. There is a reason they do these incentive programs, they more often than not get more out of you then you will get out of them.
Attack your highest interest charged debts first for the most results, attack your smallest balance debts first for the most motivation to keep going.
Have a ton of debt, and you can’t even get a handle on the monthly payments? Even after Part 1 and Part 2? Consider moving the debt around. Some cards will do balance transfers and give you a flat low-interest charge up front by adding it your balance. Only do this to debts you are sure you won’t be able to touch for the period it is held for because you are working on others. Wait that didn’t work, not enough wiggle room to move it: have some other large asset? Look into selling that asset to pay your debt off or getting a loan against it at a lower interest rate. No assets? Maybe it is time to consider bankruptcy.
Part 4. Invest in yourself. Diversify your earnings.
This Part is the fun one! Make sure that you are good with Part 3 though before doing things on this list unless you can manage to do them for no money or debt! If your goal is truly not to worry about money make sure to build up a buffer in a liquid, interest accruing account like a money market fund of at least 3 to 6 months of your current expenses. Remember the more sources of income you have, the less impactful losing one is, so diversify!
Start your own side business, this can be anywhere from starting a blog, to a service like consulting or tutoring. Remember to start small and scale up with success try to grow from your earnings!
Make sure you are matching any employer contribution into your retirement account.
Invest in the stock market. If you like your field of employment and enjoy going to work, ramp up those retirement contributions and also invest in IRAs. If you would rather retire early, invest in index funds and dividend stocks.
Get an investment property. Investment properties can be a really strong contributor if you would like to retire early as it can quickly push you into gaining passive income.
I have made a lot of money mistakes when I went traveling. I do not want to date myself but travel blogs were not as popular, and for the most part, was flying blind other than a Lonely Planet Travel Guide. I lost thousands that could have been avoided. So I compiled a list of my hard-earned tips and tricks, so you, would not make the same ones!
1. Go where your money goes farther! Choose destinations where the cost of living is low. Beer in Western Europe could cost you five times a beer in Eastern Europe. Check out https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings.jsp to get an idea of how much it costs to just be in a country.
2. Travel slowly! The longer you travel for, the cheaper it is. You get reduced rates staying places for a month or longer. The less jumping around you are doing, the less you are paying to get from one place to another. As you are there for longer, so you can take advantage of free days at museums and free festivals. Go to local parties.
3. Travel like you live there. Don’t go out to eat constantly, pick up food at grocery stores and markets instead. Don’t make every day an action packed day, learn to relax. Take local public transportation instead of the tourist option.
4. Work! Many places or business will give you room and board for work. It is easy to do, and you can even plan ahead with sites like HelpX.net, WWOOF.net, and WorkAway.info. Do not limit yourself; you can contact organizations or businesses you would like to work at and ask them directly too!
5. Cut down on fees. Get a checking account or credit card that does not charge you extra for out or country transactions and ATM withdrawals. Or even better, find a bank which refunds any fees you may incur at a bank that is not your own. I use a Charles Schwab Investor Checking account. They have been amazing while stationary and abroad.
6. Play the dangerous game of credit card rewards. I’m not a huge fan of these, as I always seem to end up giving them the cost of whatever they give me right back in interest. But they can be a powerful tool if you are disciplined. My husband and I took a trip to Nicaragua on points and only incurred a few airport fees.
7. Don’t have expenses at home! Want to travel for a long time? Drop that lease, rent or sell your home, and sell off all your stuff including your car. Travel while you have no at home expenses weighing you down. You may be homeless, but let me tell you it is freeing!
8. Pay attention to Visas! Know the status of the country you are entering and if you have to prearrange a visa, pay for a visa upon arrival, or can enter for free. I did not anticipate needing a visa, and it ended up costing me a lot of money in changing flights around as I could not afford expedition, and it would have taken a long time regardless as I was not in my home country. For United States citizens: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country.html
9. Don’t be afraid of people! Hitchhike, find a travel buddy to split costs with, stay at someone’s house for free or through CouchSurfing.com. Try to network through social media to find friends and family in the area or their friends and family. Ask people who know more about the area than you to show you around. Not only does it help with costs, but it enriches the experience. Make sure to be kind and pass it on!