Everyone has different financial goals. Some are extreme; they want the plane and the private island. Others are modest, but they are what really matter to them most, like never having to worry about money again, or being able to take their family on a European vacation each summer without having to work to pay for it. Maybe it’s simply having their home paid off and having enough income to live without any fears, concerns, or worries. No matter what your goals are, it’s safe to say that most of us would like to get there sooner!
Whether you’re just starting out, or you’ve created a solid financial plan that you’re taking actionable steps towards achieving, knowing how to make the game winnable and speed up your progress will take years off of the time it takes to achieve your goals.
The most important lesson we all know, but few people really activate, is that you must become an owner of businesses, not just a consumer. You have to become an investor – no matter how small the amount – so you can tap into the power of compounding. Just look at how small changes add up. Instead of going out to dinner with friends – at a cost of, say, $50 – why not order a couple of pizzas and beers and split the cost amongst the group? If you do this once a week, at a savings of about $40 each time, this one small shift can save you approximately $2,000 a year. Investing the difference at an 8% compounded return over 40 years, that $40 weekly savings will net you $581,944! That’s a small sacrifice now that will reap huge returns later!
Here are five core strategies that you can begin to implement immediately that can accelerate your progress. Any one of them can significantly speed up the tempo with which you achieve your dreams. Put a couple of them together, and you’ll be unstoppable.
SAVE MORE, AND INVEST THE DIFFERENCE
Do what people think is impossible. Save more and invest the difference. I know it sounds crazy, but the first way to speed up your plan is to save more and invest those savings for compounded growth. For those of you who may be saying, “I can’t even make ends meet, there’s no way I can save more,” let me give you one of my most fundamental strategies: The best way to get around your belief system is to develop a new belief.
As of July 2015, the average home in America was $361,000. Even at 6% interest and 20% down, your overall interest payments will end up costing you over $334,000 – doubling the cost of the home over the life of the loan. This means that a $400,000 home actually costs you a whopping $800,000. A $500,000 is a million dollar home.
We think of interest as a small percentage, but we don’t see the compound impact of interest. How would you like to put $400,000 – or a million dollars – aside for your retirement without making any other investments? It’s easy; make small principal-only payments each month in addition to your usual mortgage payment and watch your mortgage get cut in half. For example, if your average home month payment is $1,731, then you’d write an additional check of $173 to go toward the principal amount. That means you never pay interest on that principal, which will save you hundreds of thousands over the (now much shorter) life of your loan.
There are so many ways to save more, from eliminating one of the single largest expenses of your life by paying off your mortgage to cutting back on your latte addiction. Brainstorm the recurring expenditures that you could eliminate or reduce to cut your expenses. It’s not about depriving yourself, it’s about timing. By taking advantage of the unparalleled power of compounding now, you can ensure you have more than enough when you need it most.
EARN MORE, AND INVEST THE DIFFERENCE
The second – and even faster – way to speed up your plan is to earn more and invest the difference. Your earning potential literally has no limits – if you unleash your creativity and focus, and become obsessed with finding a way to do more for others than anyone else. There is a biblical tenet that if you wish to become great, learn to become the servant of many. If you can find a way to serve many people, you can earn more. It’s the law of added value.
And if the gospel of Warren Buffett is more your thing, the Oracle of Omaha famously said that the most powerful investment he ever made in his life, and that anyone can make, is an investment in himself.
I was a teenager working part-time as a janitor while going to high school when I first attended a Jim Rohn seminar. There I learned the secret to economic success: “Learn to work harder on yourself than you do on your job….All you have to do to earn more money in the same amount of time is simply become more valuable.”
What Jim Rohn did was put me back in control of my own future. He made me stop focusing on what was outside of my control – my past, the poverty, other people’s expectations, the state of the economy – and taught me to focus instead on what I could control. I could improve myself: I could find a way to serve, a way to do more, a way to become better, a way to add value to the marketplace. I became obsessed with finding ways to do more for others than anyone else was doing, in less time. That began a never-ending process that continues to this day! So what about you? What are you going to do to add more value to the marketplace?
REDUCE FEES AND TAXES (AND INVEST THE DIFFERENCE)
By now you probably know that it’s not what you earn that matters, it’s what you keep. And what takes the single largest bite out of your nest egg? Taxes. Americans pay more than half of their incomes to an assortment of taxes of the course of their lives.
In fact, if you’re a high-income earner, living in a high-income tax state like California, your total bill (including income, investment, payroll, Obamacare, and Social Security) clocks in at 51.9%. Which means that you get to keep only 48 cents out of every dollar you earn.
Tax efficiency is one of the most direct pathways to shorten the time it takes to get from where you are now to where you want to be financially. Look for legal, ethical ways to lower your tax bill, and do your best to make use of government initiatives that allow you to build your nest egg in a tax-free environment. Be sure to sit down with your fiduciary and/or a tax expert to learn how to be most tax efficient with your investments.
One of the organizations that I’ve partnered with to help people understand what they’re paying in fees, and what they can save, is Portfolio Checkup. There you can get a free assessment of your portfolio, and it only takes three minutes.
GET BETTER RETURNS
How do you get a greater return while still reducing risk? Asymmetric risk/reward. It’s a fancy term for a pretty simple concept. Most people think you have to take huge risks to get huge rewards. But the greatest investors in history that I’ve interviewed – whether it’s Warren Buffett, Carl Ichan, Ray Dalio, or one of the greatest investors in history that I’ve coached for 22 years, Paul Tudor Jones – they all believe they want to risk as little as possible to make as much as possible. One of the ways Paul Tudor Jones explains this is that he knows he can be wrong and still be successful, because he uses asymmetrical risk/reward to guide his investment decisions. He’s always looking for what he calls a 5:1 investment – where if he risks $1, he believes he can make $5. Using this formula, Paul could be wrong four out of five times, and still break even.
The second way for getting better returns while reducing risk is diversification. Effective diversification not only reduces our risk but also offers you the opportunity to maximize your returns. Asset allocation is the one thing that every investment professional I’ve talked to, the best in the world, has said is the key factor in where you end up financially.
A great fiduciary advisory can also help you to find investment opportunities with that magical asymmetric risk/reward that all successful investors seek.
CHANGE YOUR LIFESTYLE – FOR THE BETTER
What would happen if, for just a moment, you considered making a change? A big change, like picking up and moving to another city? You could be living large in Boulder, Colorado, for what you’re paying just in rent in New York City or San Francisco. The cost of homes, food, taxes and so on differ wildly depending on where you live. It’s one thing to be tax-efficient in your investments; it’s another to be tax-efficient in your life.
What if you saved 10% to 30% in everything you do by moving to a less expensive city or tax-friendly state? Or get out your globe and give it spin; you could cut your cost of living in half if you expanded your horizons.
This change in your savings rate will put some rocket fuel in your money machine that will massively improve the pace at which you achieve financial freedom. If you saw that you could save ten years of your investing life – reach your Financial Freedom goals a decade sooner – could the big change be worth it?