Even before I started my own blog, I was a blog reading addict (mostly personal finance blogs). I’ve learned so many great things and gotten so many ideas from reading blogs, which include ideas that the main stream media often don’t talk about. I was tired of reading the recycled articles about making a budget and contributing to your 401K up to the employer match. I didn’t want to read any more stories about how early retirement was almost impossible (and by early they meant 50’s) and that even retiring at 65 might be a pipe dream. Here are some of the amazing things that I’ve learned thus far:
Retire in your 30’s
I always thought that, like most people, you get a job, work for 40 some odd years and retire in your 60s. I thought I was doing an awesome job saving for retirement when I opened an IRA account and increased my 401K contribution over the amount that my employer matched. Since I was working in government where I had a pension, I started thinking that retirement at 55 would be possible and thought that was incredibly awesome. Now when I stumbled upon the Early Retirement Extreme blog where the blogger, Jacob, said that he retired after working 5 years and was not yet 30, my mind was blown. He was a little extreme with his frugality, but then through Jacob’s blog, I found Mr. Money Mustache and his story really made me think that early retirement was possible. He went into detail about how he and his wife retired early, and argued that early retirement didn’t mean a life of deprivation, explaining often that he lives a very fulfilling life. I’m not going to be able to retire in my 30’s, but it’s possible I get there in my 40’s.
Simple, Stress-free Investing with Superior Results
I have talked about index investing many times on my blog. I believe in it and I am glad that I found this strategy. It wasn’t always this way though. Like many others, I used to chase returns by trying to a hit run by investing in the next hot stock and by investing in mutual funds which had the best returns. Now I realize that it is difficult if not impossible to consistently beat the market, so I just stick with low-cost index funds. Warren Buffet has encouraged most investors to just invest in low-cost index funds and I’m going to take his advice. This investment approach has also reduced my stress. The market drops a few hundred points! There’s a recession coming! Britain is exiting the EU! I’m investing for the long haul and I don’t really care about the stock market fluctuations. I continue to invest and stay the course. I’m not exactly sure when I first learned about index investing but it was likely on the Bogleheads’ forum.
Don’t Pay Taxes
You know how the saying goes that “there are only two guarantees in life: Death and Taxes.” Well, what if you could pay very little or no taxes? Wait wait wait, I’m not saying you should be like Wesley Snipes and get convicted of tax evasion. There are legitimate ways for regular working Joes to shelter our money from taxes. When I read the blog post title $150,000 Income, $150 Income Tax and Never Pay Taxes Again, I was very interested. We often hear about maximizing our returns when investing, but most times we ignored tax savings. Taxes are boring and complicated. Nobody really wants to deal with them. Heck, most people I know have no idea about their own taxes! They send their tax documents to the accountant who files the taxes for them. The tax policy in the US targets people with earned income so if you reduce your taxable income by “making your take home pay as small as possible,” you can avoid paying a good amount of taxes. Justin who blogs at Root of Good and wrote the post about paying only $150 in income tax with a $150,000 income, suggests that “you do everything you can to make your take home pay as small as possible” by maxing out tax advantaged plans like Retirement plan contributions (401k, 457 or 403b plans), flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, and others. I’m pretty sure that after I read this post, I immediately logged onto my 457 plan online and maxed out my contributions.
The post about never paying taxes again was found on the Go Curry Cracker blog and it gave four simple rules to eliminate taxes:
◾Choose leisure over labor
◾Live well for less
◾Leverage ROTH IRA Conversions
◾Harvest Capital Losses AND Capital Gains
I’m especially a fan of choosing leisure over labor to eliminate taxes. That’s a win win! This advice is geared more towards those seeking or near early retirement, which is what I often dream about.
Out-of-State Real Estate Investing
I always wanted to invest in real estate but it didn’t seem possible because real estate was so expensive in the area where I lived. When I read that the blogger FI Fighter, who also lived in a high-cost-of-living-area, invested in real estate in states where the prices made more sense and where the properties would cash flow, I was very intrigued. I was somewhat skeptical at first but after some due diligence and research, I jumped in and also purchased a rental property out-of-state.
Travel for Free
I used to focus on earning cash back on my credit cards. When I read bloggers write about earning travel points on credit cards and going to exotic locations for nearly free with points, I didn’t really pay much attention because I always figured it was just too good to be true. There was a catch, right? However, after I read more and more stories of people were doing it, I was of course, interested to see if I could get in on it too. After learning some of the “tricks of the trade” with travel hacking, I’ve been able to score some free flights and have stayed at hotels (some pretty luxurious ones) for pretty much free. If you are someone who overspends with a credit card, travel hacking is not a good idea. If you are disciplined with your spending and are an organized person, you can definitely take advantage of travel hacking. I think I first started reading about travel hacking on the Flyertalk forums, but the information can get pretty technical and it might be intimidating to newbies. I think from that forum, I found the Million Mile Secrets blog which is a great resource for those interested in pursuing this. If you want to learn more about this area, there is even a free online course about the topic on Travel Miles 101. If you want even more hand holding, you can contact Holly from Club Thrifty with your ideal itinerary and she will help you create a “credit card rewards-fueled plan that can make your travel dreams come true”
You Can Really Make Money Online!
I always thought that there was an opportunity to make money online but I didn’t know how, plus I am not the least bit technically inclined. Reading articles where bloggers reveal how much money they earn online really opened my eyes to the opportunities out there. Check out the income reports on Club Thrifty and Making Sense of Cents and tell me you don’t want to learn more about this possibility. I definitely am and will need to learn more about how to earn some money online! The best thing about making money online is that you can be often work from anywhere and your schedule is a lot more flexible. Also, if you do it right, a lot of the income can be passive.
Drastically Reduce the Cost of Your Cellphone Service
I was in a family plan with AT&T and had an employer discount. I thought that was the best that I could do. There was no other way to reduce this expense unless I went with some unknown network which was probably unreliable. Then I read Is Your Cellphone Plan Ripping You Off? on the Saving the Crumbs blog and I knew that I could saved a lot of money by switching. Being that Cricket Wireless uses AT&T’s network, I figured there was no downside to the switch. With Cricket Wireless’ family plan, you can have 5 smartphones with unlimited talk and text and 2.5 gigs of data (after which your data speeds are reduced) for $100. That is less than half of what you would pay if you had a similar plan on AT&T. So why wouldn’t I switch? I’ve also heard great things about other plans like Republic Wireless and Ting which are a lot more affordable that the traditional plans, but I haven’t tried them. If you’re interested, you can check out the review on Republic Wireless here, and the review on Ting here.
Consider an Adjustable Rate Mortgage
When I was purchasing a co-op, I went to the bank and the loan consultant just assumed that I was looking for a 30 year fixed mortgage. I didn’t know any better and after the housing crash in 2007, there was such a stigma with adjustable rate mortgages that I just assumed that a fixed mortgage was superior. I truly regret not doing more research about this because I would have saved a lot of money if I didn’t go with conventional advice. When I read Financial Samurai’s post, 30-Year Fixed Mortgage Loan or an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)?, I knew I made a costly mistake. Here is an excerpt of what he had to say:
“First of all, the average duration one lives in and owns a home is 7 years. If that’s the case, what on earth are you doing borrowing a 30-year fixed rate mortgage for? A 23 year + overestimation of ownership is a serious miscalculation based on the statistics at hand. With a 5/1 ARM, your underestimation is only 2 years, but you already have baked that in”
We bought a co-op which is a junior 4 (small dining alcove converted into a small bedroom). Being that our family was growing, it was very likely that we’d outgrow the apartment in 5 to 7 years. I did run the “rent vs buy” calculator and given other factors, I think it made sense to buy a co-op even given this timeline. But it made no sense to get a 30-year fixed mortgage. If I had gotten a 5/1 ARM, I’d reduce my interest rate by 1% saving over a thousand dollars a year. *Face Palm*
Do you see anything here you might implement in your life? Have you read anything tips or ideas on other blogs that was really mind-blowing? If so, please share in the comments!