Saving vs Investing: Investing for Income

Saving and investing go together like milk and cookies, sweet and sour, and Elvis and banana peanut butter sandwiches, right?  Right.  Well, almost right.  It’s easy for us to say that saving and investing are important parts of a personal finance plan.  It’s easy for us to say that and then move on.  After all, we just said they’re important, right?  Not so fast.

Saving and Investing ARE important

They just aren’t equally important.  Heck, it’s another whole post, but even the different types of investing aren’t equal.  Just as important as saving and investing together is the concept of when to use which, and how much.  The mix of liquid savings in the form of cash accounts and CDs with the amount of your money that’s invested can be one of the most important parts of your overall personal finance plan.

Traditional advice tells us that cash accounts and CDs are the super safe way to keep your money with you, and investing, in it’s varying forms is all kinds of risky.  Investing in stocks?  Risky.  Investing in pork bellies?  Risky.  (unless you really like bacon.  Just kidding, still risky.)  But, is the amount of risk involved in investing more or less risky than leaving too much of your money in the bank to rot away at current interest rates?  How about you ask the people of Cyprus if they still feel safe having their money in the bank?

Saving vs Investing : Investing for IncomeSuccess is risky.

Few who accomplish success do so without some element of risk.  In fact, the easier the path to success is perceived, the less chance there is of truly obtaining it.  I don’t say that to seem philosophical.  I want to make a point, however.  You’ve got to have a little risk, if you want to succeed.  You’ve got to have Investments if you want to succeed financially.  And, I think the ratio of investments to savings should probably be much higher than most would suggest.

Investing for Financial Independence

One of the key tenets in a financial independence plan is that you need to replace your income in order to free yourself up to be independent of a job.  Not independent of work, but of a job.  There are, obviously, many ways that you can go about replacing that income.   Decreasing your expenses is usually a part of most plans.  But, most people’s expenses will only decrease so far.  Sure, you can go extreme, and get them lower, but for many that isn’t what financial independence is about.  Even with your expenses decreased as low as you’re willing to take them, you’ve still got to replace the income to pay those expenses.  Investing can be a very good way to get started towards replacing your income.

Investing for Income

In order to replace income with investing, you’ve got to invest for income.  You probably try and do that by becoming a super successful day trader and making up the income in profits from all the great deals you made.  First, find yourself a few super successful day traders who have done that.  Come back when you’ve given up.  If you’re going to invest for income, it’s got to be reliable.  It can’t rely on your ability to find a good bargain and then sell it at a massive profit a few days later.  There are traders who are still waiting on Facebook to make a comeback so they can even get their money back.  Reliable income is the key.  For this, we need investments that are steady, don’t require the continued increase in value of the stock, and also don’t require us to sell like a fiend in order to create the income.  What are these mysterious investments, you ask?  Dividend stocks.

Dividend stocks are stocks that pay a dividend on each share of the stock that is held.  The amount of the dividend can vary, but there are many that you will find that pay dividends in the range of 2-4%.  Depending on the policy of the company, they usually pay quarterly, but there are some that pay monthly and yearly.

Dividend stocks aren’t the only way to invest for income, however.  Investing in peer-to-peer lending in a program like Lending Club is one.  Rental real estate is another.  A business can even be a way to invest for income.  Each has varying levels of passivity, or the amount of direct interaction on your part to earn the income.  A business that you run can mean well over 40 hours a week of direct interaction to create the income.  Something like Lending Club or rental real estate can be brought down to a level that borders on passive income entirely.

Savings vs. Investing

With any investing tool, whether it be dividend stocks, lending, real estate, or some other instrument, there will be risk.  With risk usually comes reward.  I’ve been earning over 14% return on my Lending Club portfolio.  Dividend stocks can lose value, or even stop paying dividends.  The real estate market can dry up, and you can have problems finding renters.  Risk is inherent.  Unless you want to directly trade your time for money (call it a job), you’ve got to take on a little risk and begin setting yourself free.

Savings shouldn’t be shunned completely.  I still believe that an emergency fund is an important tool.  I still covet a debt free lifestyle.  But, once my debt is paid off, and my emergency fund is full, you can bet the rest will go towards investing for income, and building my wealth towards financial independence.

How about you?  What is the role of savings in your personal finance journey?

Original img credit: Two men with pipes posing as boxers / Deux hommes, pipes à la bouche, prenant une pose de boxeur by BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives, on Flickr

Why I Bought My Baby Stuff Used

I had my first baby last June, and I probably bought one or two small purchases new. The rest was all second hand. I’ll also let you in on a secret, but please, don’t tell anyone I know. I returned about 90% of my baby gifts and bought stuff for our new home instead. I know; it is a bit shameful. However, I did tell everyone I know that we didn’t need anything for the baby, and that resulted in getting about six sets of baby washcloths and several newborn clothing sets.

Now that my baby is almost a year old, I can say that I am very happy that I bought my baby stuff used. Here’s why:

I Made a Profit on My Used Goods:

Get this, not only did I save a ton of money from buying used baby items, but I also made a profit on majority of it. I bought all of my daughter’s clothing from newborn to six months and majority of my equipment from a wealthier mom of two daughters. She was also very sweet and threw in a ton of free items because I was buying so much from her. For all of the clothes, I paid $110. There was about 200 pieces, if not more. So far, I have sold 80% of the clothing and have made much more than $110.

Many other items I have sold for what I bought them for. Basically, I was able to use the baby items for free.

I Don’t Feel Bad About Stains:

ABought my Baby Stuff Useds I said above, I bought a lot of clothes from the wealthy mom. There were some very nice outfits in them, and I received a lot of compliments on how I dressed my daughter. However, I am not very good at laundering or keeping messes contained. A lot of pieces were stained once my baby girl started eating solid foods. Not only that, but my dogs chewed up several pieces of her clothing too. Now, if I had spent more even $5 a piece for each outfit (which is fairly cheap in baby world), I would have been devastated at how many pieces were ruined. However, since most of the clothing was free (after adding in the money I made back), it was easier to just let it go. I instead used the pieces as baby wipes to further save money.

I Don’t Have to Store Anything:

I don’t know how many more babies are in my future, but I do know one thing. I don’t want to store several baby items to use for the next baby. If I had bought everything at full price, I would have the guilt to save everything so that I wouldn’t lose my money. However, since I bought everything at 60-90% of the original price, I am able to sell the item for most of the cost. I also know that when the next baby comes around, I will be able to find the same used baby equipment for the same prices.

Don’t forget that every square inch of your home that is devoted to storing stuff is costing you money in some way or another. Plus, who doesn’t love having a cleaner, clutter-free home?

I Don’t Have Buyer’s Guilt:

Buyer’s guilt can happen to a lot of new parents. You buy that awesome looking Bumbo seat for your baby only to find out that they don’t like it or that it only keeps your baby happy for one month. For example, I bought a Prince Lionheart bebePOD Flex Baby Seat used for $8. On Amazon.com, it is $34. My baby used it for two months. So basically, my weekly cost to use this seat was $1 (though, this does not include the fact that I will sell the seat for profit or cost). If I had bought it at full price and used it for two months, it would be like paying $4.25 a week. I would rather treat myself to a Starbucks latte once a week with the money saved.

One more example; I was set on breastfeeding and pumping for the baby. However, for many reasons, it didn’t work out for us. I would have felt even worse knowing I spent $260 on the breast pump. Instead, I paid $120 and sold it for $70. My cost was $50 for six weeks of pumping, or $8.33 a week. Considering it costs about $15 a week to rent a pump, I think I made out on top.

I am very passionate about buying used items, especially for my baby. Baby items are so pricey, so I loved having top of the line items that were still in our budget. Also, let me just quickly mention how much better used items are for baby’s health and the environment. Used items don’t give off that new chemical smell and used clothes have already been worn and washed a few times and contain less harmful chemicals and toxins too. Think twice the next time you shop for your baby.

Are We Doing Personal Finance Wrong?

As you can probably imagine, as a personal finance writer, I think about personal finance quite a bit.  Often enough that I write several articles a week on the subject.  I don’t consider myself an expert, but I do think that I know a great deal about it.  And I’m beginning to wonder if we aren’t going about it in the wrong way.

The problem with Personal Finance

We rail on the Joneses constantly.  That, by itself, isn’t really a problem.  The Joneses just aren’t very smart with their money.  But, for all that we rail on them, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to find ways that we can go about having things that are similar to what they have for less money.  And that is the problem. The Joneses have the fancy cable television package?  Try Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime!  The Joneses have a fancy new car?  Try a newer off-lease car!  The payments are half what they pay, and the car is almost as nice!  The Joneses have a fancy house?  Try making it affordable by DIY, gardening, and renting out a few of the rooms!

We aren’t the Joneses.  We know that.  We know that we really don’t want to be the Joneses.  But, some part of our natural tendencies somehow pulls us back to them, time and again.  We strain hard to become less like them, and find ourselves back where they are.  That is the problem with personal finance.

Are we doing personal finance wrong?

Doing Personal Finance WrongMaybe the issue isn’t the Joneses.  Maybe, just maybe, it’s us.  I alluded a little to this recently (The Joneses and Jealousy), when I suggested that our tribal human history pulls us towards the leaders of our “tribe”, and that we should be looking for a new “tribe” that espouses the same values that we do.  I think that we all end up returning to our Joneses because we haven’t fully made that switch yet.  Because we’re afraid of what the rest of our tribe might think.  What our families might think.  Heck, what our spouses might think.  And, maybe all this frugality and saving aren’t really what we’re looking for.  After all, where does that lead us?  A cheaper version of the Joneses lifestyle?  Isn’t that what we’re pushing away from?

Changing personal finance

I think what we are really looking for, and what we are really jealous of the Joneses for is financial freedom.  It may only be perceived in the case of the Joneses, but it’s still there.  Freedom, financially, to be able to do the things we want to do, go the places we want to go, and have the things we want to have.  We emulate those who have those things without giving much thought to how they got there.  Maybe the Joneses did it through a boat load of debt.  We rail against debt.  Which only gets us so far.  So many of us struggle with even that part of it.  I know I have, and sometimes still do.  But, I can tell you with certainty, that had my perception of debt not changed drastically from where it was when I began this journey, I would be in a far worse place than I am now.  But, even that is only one small change in the way I think about personal finance.  Our entire perception has to change.

What’s the personal finance endgame?

What is it that we are really looking for.  We decide we want to change how we handle our finances, abandon the way of the Joneses, and make our way to a better life.  But, what is that better life?  If you’re thinking that a secure retirement is it, I think you’re wrong.  I think there’s a better way.  There has to be.  HAS TO BE.  There has to be a better way that doesn’t involve working for 40+ years, pinching every penny, saving every dime, only to end up at 65 or 70 with enough money to make sure you can pay for the medical bills your advanced age brings with it without having to live on welfare.  That can’t be all there is to personal finance, is it?  My word.  What if you retire at 65, and die at 66? I submit to you, that what we are really looking for is personal finance independence.  We don’t want to have to count on a job. We don’t want to count on a paycheck to (hopefully) cover the bills this month.

What is personal finance independence?

Here’s the tricky part.  I think it’s going to vary based on the individual.  What personal finance independence means to you is likely going to be a bit different from what it means to me.  Take, for example, Jacob.  Maybe you’ve heard of him, maybe you haven’t.  He writes a blog about early retirement.  He wrote a book all about it.  It’s got more scientific content than some of the science books I remember from school.  They guy is crazy smart about the subject.  But, when he says it’s early retirement extreme, he’s dead right.  If going to the measures that he went to in order to retire early is what is required, count me out.  In fact, it seemed for a long time that it was either extreme or not.  Nobody had really talked much about the in-between area.  Enter Mr. Money Mustache.  He, too, retired early.  And, while he has his extremities, it’s not quite the same thing.  It’s different for each and every person.  What one person thinks of as retirement isn’t what someone else will think of.  Heck, most of us have been so pre-conditioned to think that retirement should consist of afternoons golfing followed by bingo down at the VFW that it’s no surprise that we scoff at people like Jacob and MMM.

How do we get there?

Oh.  Well, the truth is, I just don’t know.  I think that, with a little help from the Jacobs and MMMs of the world, and a little trial and error, we can find our own personal finance independence.  I think that we can take what we learn, adapt it to our lives, and make something brilliantly wonderful out of it.  I know we can.  We just have to try.  We just have to change personal finance as we know it, and embrace something better.