Having a positive money mindset is crucial to accumulating wealth. In this very first article of the financial freedom and me blog, we talk about our current money mindset. What we do and don’t value, what we prioritize, and how we’re planning our money for the future. Throughout the years we have made many mistakes. These mistakes have lost us upwards of $7,000 in one week. $15,000 over the course of a year. And who knows how much more we lost out on because of wrongful action or plain inaction.
I mention that last one because there have been countless times where we were faced with an opportunity to invest our time, money, or resources in ventures whether it was an online business, stock, or real estate deal only to not do anything and lose out on quite a bit of potential earnings.
What are we invested in and making money on?
Currently, our portfolio consists of stocks, real estate, book royalties, blog site, cryptocurrency, retirement accounts, various savings accounts, and some cash for a rainy day. There has been a lot of learning experiences that have led to us having our portfolio in this manner. For starters, we try to focus our time and energy on things that can grow apart from us having to work on it. Otherwise known as passive income.
But the thing is, we aren’t pursuing something with the goal of making passive income. We are pursuing ventures because our money mindset focuses on long-term stability mixed with the potential for growth over time.
We used to do selling on Amazon and ebay to resell items at a higher price. But after seeing other competitors come in overnight and knock the profits way down, it was time to get out of platforms where we’re dependent on the platform itself to succeed. Granted we still do business on Amazon and social media platforms but we are not depending on them for success.
Some businesses do all of their deals exclusively on Amazon. This causes a lot of problems if Amazon decides to restrict that product from being sold. Or just decides to shut the account down altogether. We’ve seen it happen. Trust us, there’s plenty of money to be made on Amazon/ebay. Oftentimes it just doesn’t fall into our do we know it, love it, and can make money passively model.
Also having our money in small stocks hasn’t been a huge issue but some investments took a huge dive and the portfolio got negatively affected by that. But time and time again our money mindset has been growing and adapting to prioritize online business. We try to focus on industries that aren’t going away. And lastly, if the service is worth it for the customer, we get a small commission from it.
We prioritize remote businesses that are here for the long term, in an industry we know, love, and can earn a little money from. Some examples include but are not limited to; Blogging, youtube, creating physical products that are fulfilled by a third party, and online coaching. We want to make sure we’re doing what we love and know. Otherwise, we are going to force ourselves to take action every day which is no fun. Also if you don’t enjoy it AND you have to learn it seemingly against your will, that just spells misery.
A bulk of our holdings are in real estat. As of now, our primary residence is our only real estate investment to date. But before you start pointing your finger and saying “your home is not an investment!” It is when you house hack. Our garage has been converted into a guest suite which we have turned into an Airbnb. While it doesn’t make us cash flow positive, it definitely helps us out with the mortgage. Originally, with our initial FHA loan (3.5% down payment) a $190,000 purchase price ended up being $6,650 out of pocket.
Before you start shaking your head saying “but Eric, how could that be a sound investment?” At the time, it was the best decision we could make. What doesn’t get pointed out and what we naively thought at the time was the $6,650 was all that was needed to put into the home. But (there’s always a but) then you add in all the fun fees like inspections, title, appraisal, warranties, insurance, taxes, and the plethora of other add ons to your “down payment” and we really ended up putting in around $11,500 to the property before we got the keys.
Now we own the property but don’t have anything in it. So we (luckily) have some friends nice enough to donate furniture they didn’t want to fill up our home. When it was all done, the house was a rainbow of colors where nothing matched.
It cost us about $3,000 to furnish the whole 2,400 square foot home including moving costs and buying used furniture. Fortunately, 85% of our home when we first moved in was furniture donated. We got a handful of items we needed ourselves but almost all of it was used. Now the home is furnished and ready. You then have to cover maintenance. In total, our expenses range from $1,600-$1,800 a month. The refinance from 3.625% to 2.5% dropped our monthly out of pocket by $150/month. We currently pay $1,457 plus utilities for about $1,650/month all in.
Now factor in our Airbnb and we pay about $800/month for a 4 bed 3 bath home. It’s been an adventure owning a home at a young age. We’ll be sure to talk about things we would do differently later in this post. So factoring in our Airbnb to the total monthly costs, that comes out to approximately $850/month out of pocket. Not too shabby even though we would prefer it to be better. We recently raised the prices and went to a longer-term stay minimum since our HOA decided short-term rentals aren’t allowed.
Its actually helped since our occupancy has been about 50% a month on the short-term style. On the longer stays, we occupy the unit 85-90% of the time. Our longest vacancy has been about 2 weeks in a 6 month period. So when all things are factored in, we make more on a monthly basis and have less turnover. Currently, we bring in about $1,025 a month for long-term stays. Fortunately, our Airbnb pays for over half of our mortgage.
One other idea to build our portfolio is to continue house hacking. This gets us into real estate with little to no money per home. By getting a down payment of 3.5% instead of 20% we save 80% of our time and money. Given that our income isn’t raising any eyebrows (40k on a solo income because Polina stays home with the child for now) we might consider that option to build up our portfolio.
Apart from our home, we have various stock, and cryptocurrency holdings. About a year ago, I made a bonehead mistake and had to sell off a large portion of stocks. This was because I got involved in a scam. More on that later.
Cryptocurrency is a wild topic now. And as crazy as it is, I like to invest in things that have a longer track record of success and potential for growth. There are so many things we don’t know about in crypto. Even something like the coins themself or the exchange they’re hosted on. There’s apparently over $148 billion has been “lost” in the crypto space. This is due to an online wallet it was sent to was either fraudulent or wrong. Therefore, we try to invest in the coins with a longer success history than the “hot, quick wins.”
I don’t know as much as I would like to know about cryptocurrency. But my money mindset is to catch the wave with some money I don’t mind losing. This is because it’s not an amount I depend on. That led me to Ethereum which at the time of discovery, was around $600. It seemed like a decent investment, so I bought a few.
Shortly after it went to $1600, $1,800, $2,200, and peaking early 2021 at $4,196.63. But rather than sell, there was an NFT project (basically digital art) from Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is somebody that influenced me to start this blog and other businesses. From the amount invested in ETH, (short for Ethereum) I reinvested into some of his tokens, Veefriends.
While there was a slight hesitation, my money mindset assured me there was nothing to lose. This is because this money’s purpose is to be invested. So upon buying 2 Veefriends, I attempted to flip one on the NFT (digital art) marketplace opensea. Aka the ebay or amazon version for NFT projects. Much to my amazement, the 1 eth investment in one of the Veefriends (VF for short) it flipped for 3.2 ETH. After seeing that, A bulk of my stock holdings were sold to purchase more. After 1 week, 10,000+ VF were sold out.
They’re attractive since they double as admission to Gary’s conferences. The conferences will happen for the next 3 years. Pair that with other incentives; dinner with Gary, Facetimes, gifts, adnd demand skyrocketed. You get the idea. a little confused? Don’t worry, I was too but I knew it had the potential to be something big. So with the money I was comfortable losing, I put into VF. I made sure there was proof of concept to be able to sell, and bought everything I comfortably could.
Now (surprisingly) the 1 ETH made is getting offers for 9 ETH. The crazy part is so many other token holders have 20X their investment from 2 to 90ETH sales. Absolutely crazy what is going on there. I’m sure most of you are rolling your eyes since you would do something different. The money had been saved for years with the sole purpose of investing so it’s done its job.
I mention all of this since to document our financial freedom journey and to describe our money mindset. This also gives you an inside look on what we pay attention to. And sure, the whole crypto market could crash tomorrow and there goes our investment. But if that happens, there are much bigger problems in the world. It is a topic we don’t know everything about but it is something we see as being around for a long time so we made an educated decision to invest in it.
For some time now I was contemplating writing a book. The goal was to educate an audience that previously had to travel to camps/training from all over the country. Some of these camps and trainings cost $100-$2000+ per training. That paired with my passion for the subject led to me publish a book teaching others how to teach themselves. Or at the very least save thousands a year by becoming self-sufficient. I figured by selling a book for less than $20, I not only help these athletes out tremendously, I get a small royalty from each book sold.
Now I only published it 2 days ago (8/23/21) but there are a few sales on it and I am confident this will do so much for that community. This is definitely a passion project to which I am proud to have provided to the community. So far the earnings on 13 sales has been about $100 in royalties. The beautiful thing about writing educational content (as long as it’s in an industry that isn’t going anywhere) is it will stay relevant 100 years from now.
And I don’t have to touch it ever again if I don’t want to. I’ll ask you, what is something you know better than anyone that you could write about? If you haven’t already written about it for others, what’s stopping you?
Blog Site/Social Media
These are grouped together since they are under the same brand. I don’t make more than $30-50/month collectively on these but it’s nice because it’s fun and free to educate and promote material. As the blog and social media grow, so does the income. It’s a direct relationship. From the blog (not this one), a majority of the income comes from affiliate links. By the way, I do earn a small commission from purchases made through the links provided in this article as well. Advertising is great when there are tens of thousands of views a month or more. But I average about 2,000 so nothing to get excited about.
Affiliate links are nice because they do not interfere with user experience. I also earn more from them than I would on an ad. For example, as an Amazon affiliate, you earn 1-10% on all items in the cart once the cookie is used within 24 hours. This means if the user has $1,000 worth of stuff in their cart and you have a 5% commission link, you get $50.
Not bad for just recommending a product you already use. Youtube, tiktok, and instagram have been my largest traffic drivers as I post on those sites and even if it reaches 1 new person that likes it and shares it with 3 people who then share it with 3 more people.
That’s 10 new viewers on 1 that just liked the content. It just takes 1 viewer to change everything. But social media is great because the followers you have can provide as your marketing force. Let’s say you do a giveaway for a product and each contributor tells 10 friends, that’s tons of free marketing right there. And not to mention the affiliate links that can be included on each post. It can be a self-sustaining business if you play it right.
Our Money Mindset on Retirement
Unfortunately, I neglected to save for retirement for a long time. I naively thought I would have a thriving business by the time I turn 26 (it hasn’t happened, yet, there are still 10 months until 26 so who knows) I figured all retirement savings would be put off until the business is moving and grooving.
But I guarantee by the time I get to the point I want to be I’ll find another reason to push back saving for retirement again. I finally read I will teach you to be rich by Ramit Sethi and it changed how I view saving. I now have fully automated, working in the background savings that happen without me thinking about it. Here’s how it works:
- We have a designated high yield savings account which we automatically deposit in from our joint checking account. (yes we have a joint checking account, more on that in another post)
- Every month on a specific day, we draft a specific amount of money from our joint checking account. We then put it into a specific high yield savings account for retirement. Then, we use marcus goldman sachs and have been satisfied with their speed of transfers, no minimum balance requirements, and simplicity. We would consider Ally bank as well but we see no reason to move over if we’re perfectly satisfied with Marcus.
- From there, our automated transfers are something we never think about and we link our bank accounts up with vanguard to withdraw on a specific day of the month as well. Vanguard will be who we use as a solo 401k since I am not employed and my wife Polina is not considered full time through her employment as a tennis coach.
- We have another custodian who automatically withdraws from our account for the Roth IRA. This is a SDIRA which we use to invest in real estate properties and any gains will be reinvested into the retirement account. (we haven’t invested in anything yet but that will come soon)
- Side note: the marcus sachs interest is about .5% which isn’t making anyone rich anytime soon. It WAS at 2% before the whole, you know, 2020 happened. But still noone puts their money in a savings account to win big.
Like I mentioned earlier, I messed up by not prioritizing retirement, even on a small scale much earlier. I never believed I would be needing a retirement fund since I would build this big massive thriving business that pays me 20X what my retirement could. Well, as most things go, it doesn’t always work out like that, so outside of my job out of college, I barely have money saved for retirement.
In total, I would say I have about $25,000 which isn’t too bad being out of college 4 years but there have been stints of time for 1-6 months where I haven’t put anything in depending on others to help me invest to which I would reinvest a portion of profit into a retirement account. But as I’ve learned through experience over and over again, do it your damn self.
There are good people in the world but everyone is selfish to some degree. It’s best that you take care of yourself and stop expecting someone to show you the way to riches. The 6 month period of no retirement contributions won’t make a massive deal but I understand compounding works best with time. So I don’t like the thought of losing out on 6 months of growth.
Our money mindset on retirement currently is we will invest our solo 401k into VTSAX and our SDIRA into real estate either by finding a reliable investor that can structure a deal and we just use our Roth to fund it, or invest in a REIT. I would prefer the former since having a tangible asset has always been appealing and a focus of mine. After months of pacing in our house, I really think a good route is to use VTSAX as our ultimate end goal where our rental properties are reinvested to fund our VTSAX account and maybe a small percentage into crypto.
An example would be owning properties (we like mobile home parks) and using the profit after all expenses are paid and we put aside some for big expenses (sewage issues, acts of god, etc) and the rest we would invest a portion into our retirement savings account with the rest going right back into getting more properties. That way as our full-time job pay increases over time, we can fast track our retirement by getting more properties and putting more into retirement funds. The cool thing about real estate as a retirement vehicle is there are so many tax advantages with it. Once the property is purchased and repairs are made, other than Cap-ex expenses (roof, plumbing, etc) and vacancy, you’re pocketing all that money. And the goal is to never sell since that forces capital gains tax on you.
Rather, refinance, use the surplus of cash to get another property. Rinse and repeat. This is also known as the BRRRR method where you Buy Rehab Rent Refinance Repeat. And what’s even more fun is if you build up a big enough portfolio, you can do a 1031 exchange which means you can bundle properties together and “sell” to get a property of equal or less value while deferring taxes.
Simply put, if I have 10 properties worth $100,000 apiece, you can bundle them together to purchase a property worth $1,000,000 completely tax-free. The taxes get deferred for a later date when you decide to sell the property outright. You would then owe taxes on all properties sold down the line. The goal then is to continue doing a 1031 to which no capital gains are owed.
Please consult with a tax professional as I am definitely not a CPA, just someone who loves talking about the money mindset, investing, and financial freedom.
After you acquire the properties that your heart desires, you can then pass them down to your kids or just keep them as long as you want. Each month you pay a mortgage, your equity rises and so does your cash flow. When paired with reinvesting back into both real estate and VTSAX, you have fat financial freedom coming your way!
Our Money Mindset on Savings/Cash
As mentioned earlier, we like automating our savings. We have about 8 different savings accounts set up which serve different purposes. Again thanks to Ramit Sethi in his book “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” and David Back in “The Latte Factor” we now understand the power of guilt-free spending.
As long as you allocate a certain amount of money towards that thing you want, you can use that fund however you wish. So for us, we have a fund for our baby, adventures (travel), emergencies, fun (spend it on whatever you want), Gifts, taxes, retirement, and profit from our businesses which will soon take off god willing 🙂 (Also thanks to Mike Michalowicz for his great book “Profit First“).
And every month with the exception of profit, our bank is automatically transferring money into each of these buckets without us ever having to think about it. The key is to remove as much human error and emotion from your money as possible. That way we won’t put off putting our money away to the point that it never happens.
Automation is a major factor to accumulating wealth. We don’t have bundles of cash everywhere but we feel it is nice in a pinch to just use it. And something we don’t mind doing is bringing cash with us to the grocery store so our limit is X amount.
We also use YNAB as our budgeting app which has had a noticeable difference on our savings as if we go over on one of our budgeted items, we simply pull from another budget to make up for the overspending. This has easily helped us save another $1,000/month well worth the investment for you skeptics out there!
What were some fatal money mindset mistakes?
Early on in our working career, I was (and still am) pretty stinkin naive. This has led me down many roads where I lose $100-$7000 thinking this is the venture that changes everything for us! Unfortunately, just the opposite happens.
We sink a bunch of money into some products we try to sell or we get involved with some shady people and *poof* there goes the hard-earned money we saved up for. Now I often chalk these up as a learning moment but deep down it succkkkksssssss to lose/get scammed out of thousands of dollars. That’s why our money mindset now thanks to George S. Clason’s Richest Man In Babylon is:
- Pay yourself first
- Invest with wise people
- Invest in what you know
- Find smart ways to multiply money
- Don’t try to get rich quick
These money mindset principles have been our guiding light for over a year now and has definitely resulted in positive changes in our life.
However, that being said, there have been times we have lost a little or a lot due to us not seeing the bigger picture in the moment. Right before reading Richest Man In Babylon I was a seller on ebay and I got a random text from a guy asking if I would want to make a few extra hundred bucks a month listing products on ebay. I figured there’s no risk in doing so since I know ebay well having been on their platform for 6 years with a great rating on over 140 reviews.
The gig was I would list high ticket items, like graphics cards on auction and once someone purchased the item, I would let the guy know. He went by Kevin. Kevin then instructed me to send the money through PayPal to a third party and the order was “supposed” to get fulfilled. I had done something exactly like this before where I would get orders from someone, I would place the order and a 3rd party would fulfill the order. This happens a lot on amazon or shopify. Only this time, I never placed the orders or fulfilled them myself.
This resulted in a big no-no when buyers started contacting me about not getting confirmation of their order being shipped. I also started to get suspicious after the first day. Buyers asked for pictures of the fulfillment office but he maneuvered around getting pics to me saying “if the buyer is asking that means they don’t trust that we have it. And if they don’t trust us we’ll find some other buyer who wants these cards. Let him know we can cancel and refund the order if it makes him feel more comfortable.”
I didn’t dig deeper on that first day even though I should have looking back now. Long story short, a week of these orders came in and conversations started to get more heated with Kevin and I since I wanted one picture or some type of confirmation that they actually HAVE any of these items I’m risking my eBay account for.
I start getting bad reviews, Kevin responds less and less, I get my eBay account restricted from selling after 6 years of a good track record and Kevin is never to be heard from again. Just like that $7,000 gone from my stock portfolio to pay back all the orders. I contacted the FTC and they didn’t do a thing unfortunately even though I provided all the phone numbers, texts, PayPal transactions, and emails I had with them. That being said, it led me to discover the evil side of people to which I am 10,000x more cautious about doing business with people.
Our favorite investment to date
Out of everything we’ve spent our time and money on, our favorite investment has been books. While somewhat of an anticlimactic answer, they are truly the best ROI you can get. The way we see it is a book is on average $10, if we get a mindset shift or idea that nets us a gain/savings of $1,000 then the book has paid for itself 100x over.
That happened with us in real estate. We read the book from bigger pockets “The Book On Rental Property Investing” got it for about $13 and it led to us house hacking and saving $800/month on our mortgage. given that we’ve had it for 2 years nets us 147,592.31% over 24 months. Books are the gateway to a better money mindset. We often go to goodwill or thrift stores to look for books and get them for $.99-$3.99 and the value in the book could be the very thing that gets us to financial freedom. I’d say that’s a worthwhile investment.
Which money mindset decisions are worth having and which are worth getting rid of?
While we’d like to think we’ll stay true to our beliefs about the proper money mindset for the rest of our lives, we know our money mindset will change. But for the time being, we believe in saving as much money as we can and spend only on the areas that bring us joy. Our baby girl has already established that she can have my wallet to do whatever she wants. Even though she’s three weeks old as of 8/26, she’s going to do some amazing things in this world. While I’m currently working for a real estate company as a project manager, it’s been over 2 weeks since I’ve heard anything from them and this isn’t the first time.
Given that they are so poor at communication, I’ve decided to keep working there but look for a reliable and established higher-paying company. The real estate company has promised the world but has yet to back up their word for over 6 months now. So given that and their poor communication, it’s best to take matters into my own hands and not depend on anyone. I’ve heard high promises of how “I’ll make x amount of money and retire before 30 and blah blah blah.” All I’ve heard is talk so I’ll just go to a place that responds quickly listens to their employees and pays what they say they will pay.
Not to mention they didn’t want to renew a contract since they wanted to do business on a friendship basis. The founder says he wants to be friends first and then co-workers next. The last straw was the fact that they have to wait until a property closes to pay me for my efforts.
Budgeting seems to be a concern if they are unable to pay on time since they’re waiting on closes to come in. And when it came time to negotiate for a higher number, (which they said would definitely go up in 3 months) they said that I should just stay at the current salary and they can do a commission or bonus structure. I would be fine with this but they aren’t even able to pay within 9 days of scheduled paydays. I often wait 10+ days to get paid the day I was supposed to since I started working with them. If I’m getting paid on the 1st, the payment usually shows up around the 2 weeks later on average.
So with all of those reasons, I’ve decided to look for another position. Long rant over. Fortunately, as of today, I’ve been offered a job in the digital advertising space. I will be working on a residual income basis paid on closed deals, monthly recurring revenue of each client I bring in along with other bonuses. Polina will have her parents come in from Russia to help us out for the next few months. That alone will be a huge help!
Money Mindset Continued
From there, Polina will go back to work as a tennis pro to bring in additional income. So all together, we have income from book royalties, long-term crypto/ stock investments, jobs, our Airbnb business, and blogs/social media. There are other nickel and dime investments but this is where the bulk of our focus and results are coming from.
We would definitely want to keep working at a job. All the while, using that money to build up a mobile home park investment portfolio. From there, eventually, the money will be enough to live off of. We will continue putting as much of our job income into MHP investments. As the portfolio grows, we’ll reinvest a portion of profits to retirements and crypto.
That way it’s a self-sustaining system that continues to exponentially grow the longer we have job income coming in. But of course, the goal is to be our own boss. God willing the youtube channel will pick up some sponsorships so we can start growing that passion project. Until that happens, we will happily work at a job that we understand, can believe in, love, and make money from.
We would want to adjust our money mindset moving forward to only focus on the things that bring us joy. It’s a long life and we want to spend as much time as we can doing meaningful purpose-filled life. Even if the path takes longer than usual, we will be happy as long as it’s in line with our long-term goals and desires. Too often we’ve put our trust in people to help us achieve a new level of wealth. Many times over, those people have fallen short of expectations as to be expected. So we prioritize our wants and needs over others. Simply because no one else is going to live our life for us.
Final thoughts on our money mindset
Many things have happened in our lives since graduating college. We bought a house, I got a job in sales and marketing. Polina got one as a tennis coach, and now we have a 3-week old child. Through the past 6+ years that we’ve looked for ways to earn income and utilize our money mindset. It has become increasingly clear that passive income is and has always been a huge focus for us. Passive income is largely what we base our decisions on.
Whether it’s an Airbnb, blogging, book royalties, social media or stocks, we’re always looking for smart and interest-aligned paths to venture towards. It is through us following our passion that we will uncover what it is we enjoy doing in our life. So we encourage you to find something you’ve always loved to do and can’t shut up about it. Once you have that passion, keep going in that direction. Don’t let others get in your way of following what brings you the most joy in life. Do you enjoy metal detecting? Walking dogs? Collecting worms? Let your passions fuel your money mindset path and see where that takes you. Stay amazing,
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