I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed. – Michael Jordan
"The first rule of personal finance is that it's not personal and it's not financial. It's about your ability to make ten changes and not get too depressed over it." This is an excellent quote by
James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, bestselling author, and podcaster. He has founded or cofounded more than 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr and says he failed at 17 of them (*source: Wikipedia). During my own time of reflecting back upon my homecoming visit to Denver, Colorado in July of 2015, the most frequently asked question I received while I was making my rounds visiting family, friends, and even a brief visit back to my old office at HDNet, which is now AXStv, I was asked if I was back permanently, especially by several colleagues asked if I might be coming back to my old professional career in broadcasting. Without hesitation, I always seemed to smile and say, "not at this point." I think people–including myself–are still highly intrigued, if not baffled, at how I could possibly afford to have been and to continue to be traveling the world for almost four-years, while not being a bazillionaire! Well, to be honest, that's a relatively easy answer to me. I've developed a pretty simple five-step method, at least in my opinion, which I know not everyone has the ability or current situation to follow, but hopefully this can help to take that first step in whatever stage your financial life may be at the moment.
Yes, I've had the fancy new cars, the expensive weekend getaways where tossing out even a few thousand dollars didn't seem like a dent to my budget, and of course, I still own my wicked awesome four-bedroom three-bathroom place, which is available for rent beginning in March 2016. However, I would have to say that while I enjoyed and still enjoying occasional luxuries, living with less brings much fewer headaches because I have less to maintain (i.e. an automobile, auto and health insurance, expensive cell phone plans, monthly internet, and of course storage for additional material possessions, and etc) This is not to say that I still don't indulge in some luxury items such as purchasing the new iPhone6 last summer, a newer Macbook Air, some other goodies inlcluding treating myself and friends to awesome dinners here in Seoul, because to me, being a minimalist also allows you to not only save money instead of purchasing MORE material items that you DON'T NEED but YOU WANT–again a big life lesson in NEED vs. WANT–but also, I feel it's important in sharing the abundance of the blessings your receive with others while applying self-discipline through budgeting and personal savings. The simple formula is:
1) Evaluate your daily, weekly, month expenses by tracking them NOW
2) Pretty simple, you spend LESS, than this/these amounts
3) If you are above these amounts on ANY level–of course unexpected variables occur often, which can be hard to account for–however, that's why you should be keeping certain funds liquid in savings
4) MAKE SACRIFICES!
Begin ditching ALL unnecessary costs, immediately! Cut all monthly service fees, such as; gym memberships, cable, satellite, and/or any other paid entertainment services (i.e. Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc), also review what electronics are sucking your vampire energy dollars out of your pocket. I personally wasn't sure about how effective the whole "vampire energy" was actually costing me, until I tried it at my place by unplugging my microwave, stove because of the clock, all other lamps, etc and in just one month I carefully gauged my expenses and was able to shave off $20 from my energy bill. I know that may not seem like much to you, but imagine how much you can be saving if you truly wanted too. Sure, it can be inconvenient for some families to do this, but if you want to regain your financial freedom think about all the small sacrifices and small expenses you make each month, week, or day. Even when I was working, my friends often wondered how I always seemed to have money to do things, and I told them that it wasn't the large expenses that start dwindling down your checking account, it's your small tiny expenses here and there. Cooking at home and bringing my lunch to work started saving me a lot, and even during times of social occasions I would try and eat before meeting up with friends. I know again some people might be shaking their heads thinking, "wow, what a hobo-cheapskate," but, I never refused to purchase something at restaurants or tip a proper amounts, I just limited my spending habits and guess what, I'm not drowning in debt! Also, start selling unused items on Craigslist and eBay. Pay down high-interest credit cards or loans as any financial adviser would tell you. The key word is making sacrifices!
I've found that operating my own businesses brings both a greater sense of happiness knowing that I'm doing something that I am truly passionate about and I have an abundance of freedom with my time and schedule. I mean if you could set your own work schedule, select your own clients, all while living in a first world country–that also happens to be the 9th most expensive city in the world to live–yet find a way to make it affordable, would you be so quick to return to the United States working for someone else at 40-hours or more per week, fighting the daily traffic grind, having limited vacation time, high monthly living costs, and again LIMITED VACATION TIME?
Yes, this lifestyle has it's ups and downs and there are plenty of sacrifices that are made, such as communal living, owning limited material or clothing selections/choices, staying up with trends, etc but to me, the trade-offs well outweigh these so-called advantages of being successful or keeping up with the Joneses. I used to care about brands and all that, and I'm not judging and saying it's wrong by any means, but there's a large difference to those that CAN afford certain luxuries and those that WANT to appear to own these items that in the words of Fight Club, "end up owning you!"
I mean when I am able to earn my ENTIRE monthly living expenses in just one or two days of operating my own businesses (roughly $300-$450), and from thereon out I'm saving roughly 88% of my additional earnings after splurging on treating myself to things like weekly acupuncture treatments, less than $20 per visit, dinners, movies, drinks with friends, etc. Yes, if you were to compare my previous salary to my current one, of course the NUMBERS appear to be daunting, but, when I have chances to travel or vacation up to four or even as high as six months out of the year, live without health insurance yet still have access to some of the world's best doctors for less than what most people will spend on a co-pay with the best U.S. health insurance, and often work only part-time style hours from time-to-time, you tell me what you would do?
If I truly chose to, I could discontinue communal living and still be saving, it would just be quite a bit less, so therefore, my priority is saving and keeping my funds liquid or investing as opposed to feeling that I NEED to have my own private apartment in Seoul.
Truly evaluate whatever your current system is, and see where you can make adjustments. I know that change is never easy for many people, but once you become accustomed to it, you will be surprised at how easy it can be. Especially knowing that each night I go to bed without worrying about if I will have enough money to pay bills or stressing over what would happen if I lost my job. Financial freedom to me, is one of the most liberating feelings, PERIOD!
Most of those closest to me will certainly tell you that I am a complete enigma. I mean I feel that first of all, I've always had a very independent and entrepreneurial spirit. I remember at the age of 13 I would read through the classified section of the newspaper–yes, for Millennials this is called paper and we received information from it and not electronic devices–and I would make phone calls trying to get a job because I wanted to be earning my own income! This of course didn't really pan out thanks in part to the U.S. Department of Labor laws concern child labor, again not a bad thing. When I did gain my first job as a dishwasher at a Shari's Restaurant at the age of 15, the company later found out that they were breaking the Child Labor Laws allowing me to work past specific hours in the evening on school nights and therefore I was reduced to be allowed to work one day per week. My persistence continued years later when I was 18-years-old and began working at a call center for Dish Network–unbeknownst to me that broadcast television would be my career path, but not in a cubicle call center. This was the ONLY job I have ever just walked out on! The reason is quite hilarious and yet ridiculous all at once. If you have ever seen the Mike Judge indy-classic Office Space, you know the scene when the character Peter tells the Bobs that he has eight different bosses. Well, yup that was sorta my situation. The reason I walked out you asked? Well, at these very structured corporate companies that are an exact carbon-copy of the film Office Space. We weren't employees, but "team members." We didn't have a supervisor or a boss, but a "Team Leader." C'mon corporate HR, this is a complete joke and we all know it. Well, our "team" had a specific schedule of when we would come in and work of course, and since I was not only working full time but began my first semester at college and was paying for this myself, in order to make both schedules work I placed a request that WAS APPROVED by management that allowed me to come into work one-hour earlier than my "team" and thus allowed me to leave one-hour earlier so I could make it to my evening classes. Well, EVERY morning for two weeks straight, I would come in an hour early–on time, because I have never been late to ANY job–and would plug my headset in and begin taking customer calls. Well, EVERY single morning I would have at least five to 10 people–seriously–that were other "team leaders" come over to me in the middle of a call and unplug my headset! This bothered me of course for several reasons, but the largest was because every moment my headset was NOT plugged in was like clocking out and therefore I was not being paid. I had to go through explaining, once again five or more times EVERY morning and thus was often not receiving pay for nearly 15-to-30-minutes. Finally, after two weeks of this constant–what I would equate it to is "work harassment" and these "team leaders" having nothing better to do, I finally just threw my headset down and walked out! I felt that this was ridiculous as I am TRYING to do my job and to be harassed every morning I also felt this company no longer deserved any notice of my departure and found it extremely humorous years later when HDNet became part of Dish Network's HD television package that they were now a client of MINE! Wicka-wicka, how the tables have turned! The lesson I learned here was that, situations in life occur for a reason and how most people refer to it as karma or whatever, that future opportunities will arise and if this company would have treated me better I have always had a strong level of loyalty, but they shot themselves in the foot, in my opinion. Yes, CEO Charlie Ergen, your corporate structure is a laughing stock and while I don't take pleasure in individuals losing their jobs of course, when your business management model just outright sucks, you end up losing potentially valuable asset employees. Thank you again Mark Cuban and Philip Garvin for helping me to achieve my potential, as well as my business mentor Rachael Weaver, whom is now the General Manager of HDNet Movies. THIS is how a company should be operated successfully and how employees should be treated through encouraging development of their talents, not stifling them because of an ignorant failing model.
I know most people may not be the uncanny individuals of fortunate situations such as myself, but I also didn't just sit back and wait for things to come to me. For example, back in 2000 after walking out of Dish Network, I told friends that I was tired of working service industry or hourly-waged jobs that had little opportunities, but I was actively seeking a career path that I could hopefully begin at an entry level position and work my way up. Therefore, I began applying on Monster.com for companies such as Level 3 Communications, Charles Schwab, Law Firms, Tech Companies, etc. I would apply for senior positions, but I clearly stated on my resume that I was seeking any entry level position, because I understood that I only had a high school diploma and was barely into my first few months of college. However, it was through this persistence that I applied for a Senior Accounting Position with Colorado Studios and was brought in for an interview at the ripe young age of 18 where I was told that the company is small and had an entry level position that was not listed because they didn't want to spend the money to advertise for this. My second interview was with the CEO, Philip Garvin and he asked me as we sat in the conference room where I saw myself in five-years? I answered him honestly, and told him I had no idea since I had just graduated from high school and was currently taking courses at community college in the evening at the moment. He said he was willing to give me a shot, and that opportunity blossomed into a 12-year career that took me from being the runner or production assistant to Master Control Engineer to Quality Control Specialist and finally to the Program Manager of a national television network before I was even 25-years-old. But once again, I DID NOT WAIT for opportunities to come falling on my lap, but I ACTIVELY sought them out. One thing one of my best friends Andrea and I would always be horrifically annoyed by was when others would constantly complain about their current situation, whether that was their job, boyfriend/girlfriend, living situation, income, etc but never did anything to try and change the situation. We always would say, either start doing something to change your current situation or shut up! Because, if you have no drive to change your current situation then you will continue to stay within the confines of it for weeks, months, years, possibly the rest of your life!
Take risks! I'm not saying you need to do something overly dramatic like quitting your job or packing up and moving with high-hopes to another part of the city or country, but to take risks by making changes in a SMART way! If you are not satisfied with your current salary put together LOGICAL reasons to justify a pay raise. If you want a job change, before quitting, start actively looking and networking with other business professionals. Use ALL of your resources available to you, including that simple thing we are using now called the Internet! The worst thing that can happen is you are in the same place you currently are, but at least you have tried by TAKING A RISK!
I think one of the best overall investments I made came before I was even legally old enough to buy alcohol by purchasing my house in 2002. Even after the 2008 housing market crash, Colorado was one of the first states to recover from this fact and is still one of the strongest real estate markets. It also doesn't hurt that when the legalization of cannabis was passed in 2012, there has been an enormous surge in the housing and rental market in the Mile High City. I also continue to seek out new business ventures, and have been offered several opportunities, but I feel I am always very analytical in my forward business thinking and have turned down more partnerships in the past year than I feel most people receive throughout their life. I've learned that money is a necessity in life, however, I've learned that it is no longer my absolute priority, and–I feel–when you you can accept this attitude towards money by learning to have a strong level of self-discipline in savings, financial freedom often finds you! I'm not saying all of these things will fall in your lap, as you may think they did for me, but no. I worked hard for each and every business I have started and every single one has been profitable within a seven-day period. I mean right now, it's January 21, 2016 as I write this entry catching up on my blogging, and I went to bed last night at 12:15am and was up NATURALLY at 3:45am and began working on my business. I didn't do this because I feel that it's necessary, but because I willingly just woke up and knew I could be productive. It's funny how when you start working for yourself your level of motivation and drive becomes a whole new entity. I'm also not saying that I haven't felt burned out or struggled with motivation, but it's just a different type.
Smart investments. There's a reason pyramid schemes, get-rich-quick, and all those other garbage things never work. There's also a reason why you don't see successful individuals lining up to buy Power Ball tickets. C'mon man! You that lump three feet above your butt and realize that hard work, determination, perseverance, and dedication are the keys to being smart by investing in yourself now and for the future. After reading and hearing all of the depressing stories of people that have majored in debt, I just can't stop and figure out why on earth would you take out all those loans and not realize that you won't have to pay them back at some point WITH interest! I didn't avoid this pitfall either, but I certainly considered my options when I thought about possibly going back to grad school for a law degree, until I did my research and realized it would cost roughly $150,000! Through my travels, I've found that there are several different ways to obtain a Master's Degree for half the cost, if not ENTIRELY FREE! I understand it may not carry the weight of a U.S. Masters, but do you want to be paying back loans well into your 80s, knowing you will NEVER have a chance to enjoy the golden years of retirement?! Even as I just celebrated my birthday and am closer to reaching my mid-30s, I've already began preparing for where I may be retiring in the future and it's certainly not the United States in all honesty, unless my continued business ventures take me back there for some SPECIFIC reason. I've learned that I can retire on a fraction of what most people would, while not only losing any of the perks that the so-called 'well-off retirees enjoy,' but I would be living retirement in a MORE comfortable manner with more benefits including the ability to fly back and forth around the world if need be to see family. Save and invest WISELY!
Finding success in life still requires hard work, and in doing so, you still need to reward and treat yourself. Therefore, in less than two weeks I'll be taking a three-week vacation to visit some warm beaches to, as Koreans say, "take a rest." Also in 2016, I will be taking another two weeks off from running my businesses when my best friend from Colorado comes to visit me in Seoul as well as possible future trips back to the United States in the Summer and hopefully finally being able to cross visiting the sixth continent of my travels–Africa!
Even as you begin taking steps, even baby steps, towards achieving financial freedom to travel or just have more time to do the things you would like to be doing, set goals and as you reach them, pause to reward yourself, because this will help you to stay focused and motivated. It's the old carrot and the stick mindset! Be realistic about what your carrot and your stick is by taking time to analyze and think before just rushing into decisions. Once again, I did NOT hate my job or life whatsoever before leaving, it was actually one of the hardest things to walk away from WILLINGLY, but nearly four-years later, I've grown in ways I could never have done without taking the risk of leaving behind what was comfortable and secure.
Therefore, in conclusion, based upon these five steps, I think that almost anyone can achieve long-term budget travel or financial freedom IF you are willing to make sacrifices, find your areas of weakness, and WORK HARD to be self-disciplined through patience and perseverance.