Tag Archives: finance

Minimalism: A lifestyle for us all

Do you remember the apartment I mentioned in my last article? The one I moved in to, to pay $200 dollars less a month for rent? Well since signing in September, my monthly payment isn’t the only thing that has decreased significantly.

Back in August, at the peak of our desperation to find an apartment, my roommate urgently called me from an open house showing. I could hear the smile in her voice on the other end of the phone. “I think this is our place. It’s small, don’t get me wrong. The rooms are tiny. But the location is perfect and rent is unbeatable!” Before I had a chance to respond, my phone started buzzing in my ear as pictures of the place popped up on my screen. I put her on speaker and zoomed in on the images. The place looked livable from what I was seeing, but pictures had previously deceived us. I decided to leave work early and head over to catch the tail end of the showing.

She wasn’t lying, the apartment was very small. Standing with the realtor in the kitchen, the most spacious room in the entire place, I brought up the questions he didn’t want to answer. “So what exactly are the dimensions of these rooms? I need to make sure my bed will fit.” He lead the way to the smallest bedroom without a closet, folded open the crooked, shutter style doors and let me walk in. “The room you are in now is 7×7 feet.” I pulled out my phone and Googled the dimensions of a queen size bed. “Okay, it looks like it will just barely fit. Queen beds measure about 5×6.” We both giggle sighed and shrugged our shoulders.

When I made the decision to live in this apartment, I knew I was going to have to get rid of over half of my belongings. I knew I did not have room for all of the clothes, furniture, decorations and other STUFF I had been living with for years. What I didn’t understand at the time was that the terms of this commitment would change my life for the better. Now even though I only have a bed in my room, a wardrobe consisting of only the clothes I feel good in and a fridge with only the food I will eat within three days, I am more satisfied than before.

Over the holiday break, I watched the documentary Minimalism on Netflix. It was amazing hearing neuroscientists and other striving minimalists describe what I have been experiencing for months. One minimalist explained, “every possession serves a purpose that brings me joy…when I look around I have to justify to myself, does this add value to my life, and if it doesn’t I have to be willing to let go.” Letting go of things that do not have utility can be difficult, especially if we have an emotional attachment for whatever reason. Speaking from experience however, the letting go is the hardest part. Living life with less has not only helped me save money, but has allowed me to shift my focus toward my relationships and my personal goals.

So this year I challenge you to first watch the documentary, and then begin taking small steps to become more of a minimalist. No, you do not need to move into a smaller space to start living this lifestyle. I do however, encourage you to choose quality over quantity. Let go of anything in your life that isn’t serving you right now and begin valuing and caring for those things that do. Needing less will not only make you richer in the bank, but richer at heart.

Mind Over Money

When I graduated in the spring of 2015, I thought I had it all figured out. I had some money saved, a job lined up and an apartment to move in to. College had been a blast, but I felt mature and ready begin my life as a real adult. I was going to succeed and it was going to be a breeze.  

Now, a year and a half later, I sit here writing my first post for my brother’s finance blog. See, I used to think this blog was dumb. I didn’t understand what BeatingBreakEven really meant and always thought my brother was wasting his time talking about money so much. But after switching jobs in June for a salary raise and signing a new lease, for rent that was $200 dollars less a month, I realize I am exactly where he was. I am broke, have no concrete plans for my future and am extremely unsure of myself.

In the past few months I have been thinking a lot about my life and who I want to be. I’ve thought about what to do next in my career, thought about what city I want to move to and thought about how to save more money. I’ve also spent a lot of time contemplating my inner motives, my deepest fears and my varying levels of self esteem. In this process of psychological discovery, I have begun to understand just how powerful our minds really are. They can be our biggest tool for success and the biggest obstacle.

I have started to experience first hand how becoming more aware of my thoughts and psychology can really help me achieve my goals. I mean don’t they say that you can achieve anything you put your mind to? Mastering your mind will not only make you a happier person, but will keep you on track to reaching your long term goals. Since many of my goals are financially based at the moment, I went through last month’s credit card statement to recount my recent purchases. Besides food, almost everything I bought was unnecessary. Nails, makeup, new shoes, drinks at the bar, etc. Practically everything on there were things I bought to feel better about myself. For many of us millennials, our credit card statements are a long list of our deepest insecurities resurfacing as impulsive spending habits. It’s actually pretty scary. Working through my insecurities and understanding the motives behind my purchases has started to help me say no to a lot of things I normally would have swiped for without thinking twice.

If we want to change our spending habits, we first have to change our thoughts. Seems simple and intuitive on the surface, but our minds are really unexplored territory for many young adults. We millennials do not spend enough time understanding our needs, wants and desires and instead, act on impulse as a way to band aid our immediate emotional challenges. We are impulsive because we do not take enough time to think and we spend because we don’t want to feel. We really need to learn how to understand our thoughts and be okay with our emotions, so we can make healthy, logical financial decisions.

FOUR Financial Lessons from the Homeless

New York is one of the biggest financial capitals of the world. Finance is everywhere in this city, whether in the billion dollar hedge funds that are making million dollar deals or the restaurant owners calculating bar tabs, brunch receipts or tenants saving for the unruly rent they owe their landlords at the start of each month. 

One lesson I have learned from observing the homeless on my street, is that being a pure minimalist has its benefits. These people carry with them only what they need and nothing more. It would be inefficient to carry around dead, excess weight. We as millennials need to understand why excess is bad and recognize how our spending habits are based on desire instead of necessity. If we all became more aware of the things that we buy and their ability to clutter our lives, we might start to realize that material goods do not help us meet our goals or delay the process.

The second lesson we can learn from the homeless is how we can market ourselves well to attract the attention of others. I regularly encounter homeless individuals on the subways and in the streets. They are holding signs that tell their story or are yelling at passengers about their specific misfortunes. Many of them have had a lot of practice doing this, so they know what works and what doesn’t. They are forced to put their best foot forward and try and try again to sell the bystanders on a few dollars of investment into them. They are essentially pitching themselves to an audience of investors, like you see startups do on Shark Tank. When you want money for an investment or business, or are trying to land the perfect job, you need to market yourself to your best ability. This means looking the part and connecting with the given audience on a personal and real level. The homeless live it everyday. Their survival depends on it.  Since yours doesn’t, if you were to apply the same sincerity and passion into improving your current state, you would likely get very far.

The third lesson is utilizing the resources around you to the best of your best ability. I was in the train station one time and a homeless man was cleaning all of his clothes in the bathroom sink. Since the station is a public facility, this was free to him. He was being resourceful. I also see many homeless people using public places for shelter or the public library for entertainment to pass the time and read or subway seats as beds. We as millennials also have boundless resources around us that will cost us little to no money to utilize things such as books, mentors, the internet, newspapers, other people in our field willing to help us if only we just ask. Many of us do not use these resources to our advantage as we should.

The fourth lesson is that homeless people ask for what they want. If asking doesn’t work with one person, they try and try again. They are relentless because they need to survive. They will badger so many people and most of the time it works. I know because I see so many people fall prey to their tactics and reach into their pockets to grab money. Its human nature to feel empathetic towards other people and want to help them out. Ask for what you want and if you get denied ask someone else.

The final lesson to consider is that homeless people use a cash based accounting model. These days everyone is in debt. Debt is a tool, but most of the time people, especially people our age, abuse this tool. Homeless people collect cash, use that cash and simply go and try to get more when they run out. They don’t just put their purchases on a credit card. People need to realize that we should only spend what we have available. Try carrying around a specific amount of cash each day, spending only what you need and nothing more. Don’t always be putting the little things in life on a credit card because it creates bad habits that are hard to stop.

 

Why Jake Gyllenhaal In Nightcrawler Is The Perfect Entrepreneur

Last night I decided to watch the movie Nightcrawler upon the suggestion of my friends. They were bragging that it was “a must see movie,” so I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. Overall the film was very dark and ominous. The movie revolves around a man named Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is a creepy, obsessive person attempting to solidify a career as a ‘Nightcrawler’. A ‘Nightcrawler’ is someone who races to crime scenes throughout a city in order to capture first response footage of different accidents, murders, breaking news, etc. They then sell their footage to news stations and other media hubs. I don’t want to reveal  too many spoilers, but if you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend doing so.

Why Lou Bloom is the Perfect Entrepreneur.

Lou is curious. In the early stages of the film, Lou pulls his car over after spotting two camera men trying to capture footage of victims at the scene of a car accident. He saw this as an opportunity to explore a new career. Curiosity is an extremely valuable trait for any successful entrepreneur because it is the seeking of unanswered questions that leads to the expansion of any business idea. In this instance, Lou wanted to learn everything about what they were doing…from the equipment they were carrying to the strategy they were employing. He is eager to learn, takes action and ultimately gains useful knowledge by doing so. When you are constantly seeking out new environments and new information, you are essentially opening the doors for positive change and modifications to your business plan.

Lou is persistent. He closely approaches crime scenes with confidence and assertiveness, even though his presence tends to be unwelcomed. He also demonstrates persistence when he continually asks news correspondents about increased compensation for the novel footage he captures, even though they don’t comply. Being turned down does not stop Lou from carrying on with his business endeavors. He is persistent while remaining passionate about the success of his business, and will do whatever is necessary to assuage those around him. Passivity doesn’t fly in this fast paced world. If you want to succeed, you must show unwavering intention.

Lou is constantly learning. During one scene Lou is talking to Nina, the news executive, about a business course he took. He said the most important lesson he gained was that there is so much to learn in this world, but those that learn are the ones that look hard enough to find it. This hit me. In this day and age we have an unlimited source of information at our fingertips, but the search for the knowledge we need requires stamina and persistence. A large part of being successful is having access to the information necessary to be prepared in any situation. Whether it is the information you need for an interview, a meeting or pitching new ideas to clients. What you need is all around you, you just have to want to find it.

Lou is a negotiator. Throughout the film, Lou has to negotiate many situations. Whether it be deciding on the cost of his footage or figuring out the salary for his first employee. Althogh negotiation is a two way street, Lou never begins the process before solidifying a number in mind. He will either stick with that number or settle on a better price. His most powerful technique is the will to walk away. He was fully willing to deny his partner a spot in his company or ready to bring his footage straight to another company. He always remained confident in the worth of his company and his work. He won’t settle for less without being unrealistic. Deep down, all of us has an assessment of our capabilities. Settling for someone else’s assessment of your worth will only make you unsatisfied and unhappy. A good entrepreneur is constantly evaluating their worth and sticking to this method in everything they do.

Lou is detail oriented. He thinks and plans out everything about his company and its future, down to how he wants to be addressed to the language his employees will use when they communicate within business contexts. When Lou is negotiating with Nina, he tells her exactly how he wants to be presented with other executives of her company, and exactly how he wants to appear on Live TV. This is a tedious, but valuable characteristic of any successful entrepreneur because the little things really do matter. Details are key because even the smallest overlooked details could compromise a business’ reputation.

Lou finds his passion. Lou emphasizes the importance of finding work that adheres to his personal strengths and interests. However, he is also not quick to judge new opportunities that cross his path. Sometimes it is the random opportunities in life that can become the work that makes you the happiest. As Lou becomes a Nightcrawler, he realizes it is an occupation that he has not only become very good at, but very passionate about as well. So I want to conclude with this; it is easy to write off new opportunities for fear of the unknown, failure, etc. But you must remember to alway keep your mind open for exploration because it is those  new things that you are unsure of that might just become your next passion!

Alright, enough from me. Now go watch ‘NightCrawler.’

How The “Little Things” Can Control Your Financial Health As A Millennial

The other day I was in my apartment after a long workday and the Internet was down. Seeing as though I didn’t have much else to do without our beloved muse, I decided to re-watch one of my favorite movies: “Vanilla Sky.” For those of you who have not seen the film (shame on you), Tom Cruise gets in a horrible accident and is left with a deformed face. He must then go through life wearing a mask, reinventing his identity and hiding himself from his former life. The movie ends with a quote that I will never forget, “the little things in life…there’s nothing bigger, is there? In the context of the movie, Cruise’s character was referring to all the little moments in life that add up and can bring you happiness. While this is definitely true, I also think it can be applied in other areas of life, such as your finances! 

It’s the little things expenditures in life that add up and can lead to the biggest sum of debt. It’s the Starbucks, the fast food, the taxi rides, the drinks, the hair products, toothpaste, the gum or the dates that you pay for and buy every week that add up. Compared to more serious investments like your monthly rent, these expenses don’t seem very damaging to your wallet, but over time these costs combined can be very detrimental. 

What’s a couple bucks here and there? A couple of bucks here and there is $3,000, 5,000 or 10,000 dollars worth of small instant gratifications spent over a year. One thing you can do to prevent these small costs from getting out of hand is to plan ahead and budget exactly how much you have spent in the past, over a certain time frame. I’m predicting the results will blow your mind. Just the other day I was looking at some of my daily spending habits. Every day I get breakfast for about $4.50. Multiplied by 261 workdays in a year, I am spending $1,174.50 on a breakfast that could cost me $0.75 if I prepared it for myself at home. Lunch was even more costly, at a daily rate of around $9, meaning I have been spending $2,349 a year. If I cut that down to $3 a day, I could save $1,566 a year. Taking this out of your yearly salary on an annual basis makes that delicious lunch much less tasty. 

Every day I see some of my co-workers take their twice-daily trips to Starbucks. If we are saying on average a Starbucks order costs $3- $4, so x2 can be as much as $7-8. This then equates to $2,088 a year. Is it really the coffee they want? Especially when we have a Kurig machine right in our break room providing the office with FREE COFFEE in over 15 different flavors. Now some of this can be justified with needing a break from work and a friendly ritual with co-workers, but the point I am trying to emphasize is that you should really consider just how necessary these small purchases are in your life or if there are ways you can cut down on your spending with cheaper alternatives. If you want to be financially successful throughout your life you need to always be analyzing your wants over your needs. Do I really need this or do I just want it? 

A good way to counter this mentality is to focus on the why you are spending so much money on these things and if you can do without them in your life. Try to find substitutes if possible with smaller unit prices. If you’re out of college, maybe you want to buy your first car, a trip or a house in the near future. Setting larger goals will help detract from spending so much on the smaller stuff, especially after you have realized just how much every dollar counts. Staying away from instant gratification purchases will make you happier and more successful in the long run. Just remember that its the little things you buy that can be the biggest threat to you’re financial health, so always be aware!

So you want to be Rich? 9 tips to get you started

The other day I read a fact on the internet: “The middle class today is 20% poorer than the middle class 30 years ago, in 1984.” At first I was startled by this statistic, but then I thought about it more. It all started to make sense to me. I thought about money… how money in this day and age, has become such a taboo topic. It’s like, we sit around looking at Instagram and Facebook photos of everyone flashing their wealth or attempted portrayals of lives they want to appear to be living. Money is a tool, and while it may seem to cause more problems than good, we all want it. If you are serious about obtaining this tool, as we often don’t like to admit, continue reading. I have compiled a list below of tips to help you take yourself more seriously and make more money.

1. Go where the money is. Wealthy people don’t become wealthy by staying in one place, simply hoping to win the lottery. You have to be proactive by relocating yourself to areas where larger influxes of money are more common. Money breeds money, it’s a natural fact of life. So if you want to increase your chances for making some, you first have to find where it is being made.

2. Don’t show off. Showing off your money is for people who either don’t have it or have just come into a lot of it too quickly—new money, for lack of a better term. As I’ve mentioned previously (and will continue to mention) investing your money is key! Yes, while it may be a fun drunk activity to try to impress girls by buying bottle service in meatpacking with your $10k bonus, but everyone sobers up eventually and you want your money to be there when you do too. Be smart, and let your money work for you in the future. Whether it be investing in your 401k or in a small business venture, both options have a greater return value than a one-night stand with a social climber.

3. Show up. Another quote for you today: “80% of success in life is just showing up.” Even when it’s a struggle, you don’t want to miss a day taking a step toward achieving your goals. Perseverance is very important, even when you feel discouraged. In sales they use the phrase “pounding the pavement” to represent this idea. This means physically going out and making sales happen, shaking hands and kissing babies… basically doing whatever it takes to get ahead. Keep this in mind. Alcoholics don’t go to one AA meeting and call themselves sober. It takes time and effort. Always show up.

4. Find a mentor. If you don’t know how to make money on your own, there are plenty of people out there who do. Network and ask successful individuals for advice and guidance. A lot of times people will be more willing to help out than you might think, or they might have other connections that may lead you to future job opportunities or business ventures. Remember money breeds money.

5. Avoid debt when there is no return on the charge. My father once told me “don’t put it on your credit card unless it will pay you back or last you for more than a few months.” He was right. Only invest with money you don’t have if it’s going to pay you back the same amount or more. Do not ever put yourself in a position where you have to work for your money. You always want your money to be working for you. So be smart, invest wisely, and think thrice about what you are swiping your credit card for.

6. Shoot big. So you want to be wealthy!? Instead of aiming for $1 million, aim for $10 or $20 million dollars. Lofty goals will keep you hungry and make you less likely to settle after your first big paycheck. Many people stop working hard after they feel comfortable enough. This is why lottery winners never stay millionaires for long. If lotto winners had a financial savvy mindset (side note: they likely wouldn’t be playing the lottery in the first place), they would invest their money. And the disappointment that 80% go bankrupt after a few years (fact), would not exist.

7. Understand that Money doesn’t sleep. Just like the Michael Douglas in the classic Wall Street. You have to be a hard worker. Even though your job ends at 5pm, this does not mean the opportunities to make more money do as well. Opportunities to make more money are always arising, day or night, you just have to go out and find them.

8. Treat money like its a girlfriend. Keep a close eye on your wealth and money. If you don’t make your money your number #1 priority, it is going to leave you and walk right into the hands of someone else. So don’t ignore money because after a while it will end up ignoring you.

9. If you want to be rich avoid embracing the idea of being poor. If you want to truly be happy, this does not make sense. Yes, yes I know the saying that goes something like “it’s not about they money, it’s about being happy.” Well let’s be honest for a brief moment here. Whoever said that, definitely did not live in our generation. Money can bring you a lot more happiness than financial insecurity. No matter how happy you think you are, nothing is worse than not knowing when your next meal will be or how you will make next months rent. Stress resulting from financial insecurity can make even the most optimistic person unhappy. Money gives you more freedom in life… freedom to live how you want to live. As selfish Americans, we know how important our freedom is.

Stepping Up Your Budget Game

Recently, while attempting to tackle a vast amount of credit card debt, I came across the much-needed concept of Budgeting. Budgeting is an unusual verb that is not often used in this generation, I too was a little lost. Especially after spending way too much last year on bars, food, beer, lunch, dating and anything else that drains your wallet. I felt like I hit rock bottom financially. I realized I had spent way too much money on too many perishable goods and services. This was a sign I needed to take better control of my financial habits soon or else this terrible pattern was bound to continue.

When it comes down to it budgeting means control, and control is a product of knowledge. Back when I was spending too much, I was lacking knowledge. Financial knowledge about where I was and what I was doing with my money. That was my biggest problem. I wasn’t thinking about how all of my expenditures were adding up. I would always think I had more money in my account than what was actually there, forgetting about the small things that I had bought for lunch or at the stores after work. Note: Small amounts add up the quickest!  So after my card declined a few times I finally forced myself to take control. My first attempt to regain control was an approach any millennial would do in this day—turn to technology. Technology in the form of Mint.com

Mint.com is a budgeting website and application that you can easily download onto your phone, laptop, or other smart devices for free! Mint.com provides personal budgeting tools that allow users (your futures selves) to add all of your financial accounts and display all of your balances simultaneously. This is done in a similar way to an instantaneous balance sheet showing your personal assets and liabilities. I was able to add all of my loans (school and car), bank accounts (checking and savings), credit cards, 401K, and even my brokerage account on Mint.com. At any given time you can view your exact net-worth down to the penny. With Mint.com I am able to see my balances and account activity anywhere I go. This application provides an accessible display of my spending habits in the form of helpful visualizations.

The best part about this service is the categorization tool and the budget planning aspects. Within the site I am able to see all of the purchases that I make on my various credit cards and withdrawals from my accounts in real time. I also have the ability to put these purchases into specific categories to see where my money is going every month. Using these categories I am able to customize personal budget plans. I therefore am able to manage the amount of money I am going to spend on certain necessities such as alcohol, fast food, work lunch, breakfast etc. Mint.com service will even send my cell phone alerts when I am spending too much or have gone over my set budget. These budget limits also tell me if I am saving the appropriate amount so that I am able to pay my loans and credit card bills on time.

This service helped me tremendously with my spending habits and keeping my debt under control. I highly recommend this service to anyone and everyone who wants to be proactive about their financial budgets! See Mint.com for more information and remember, knowledge is power when it comes to taking control of your finances.

Below are some relevant screenshots of Mint.com.

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