Reality Check – Goals and Status (March 2016)
March 22, 2016
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Today, I did a bit of reflecting.

This is an overdue post, because even if I’m the only one that ever looks at it, there will at least be a testament on record of my motivations. Facing this in writing forces me to either adjust my goals or remain accountable to them. I hope the below marks the beginning of a journey to improve – one where I open myself up to the input of others and galvanize my own beliefs.

The idea is that I am a 99% unoriginal human being. Somebody has produced a similar thought to even the most profound connection I’ve deluded myself into believing was all mine. So why then should I have the audacity to write with any sense of authority? That is a largely unanswered question, but one reason I seek to engage in this process is for self discovery. Thoughts are fleeting, and I very honestly long to create something lasting that I can return to. Written word can be scrutinized, questioned, and revisited in a way that the happenings in my mind cannot. Something simple like a blog allows me the chance to actually test assumptions that I’d otherwise take for granted, perhaps for my entire life. A second reason that I plan to write is that I have received great advice in my life, and I am sure that those who handed it to me were not furnishing an original thought either. If there is something to be shared to benefit another person, it seems wrong to withhold that advice for the sake of self-consciousness about originality.

I am naturally slow to adopt viewpoints – perhaps open minded to a fault. It can be difficult for me to favor single perspectives that are highly contextual – I’ll catch myself sympathizing with both sides of an issue for a very long time as I work on the reasoning, and sometimes the jury remains out indefinitely. This may be admired by someone in an ivory tower, but I find myself called to serve others through business and work in my community, where that thinking can be very inefficient. One wish of mine is that this blog will help me to work out what I firmly stand for, and thus spend less time kicking the can around in my brain (a much less transparent forum).

A third leading reason why I want to write falls into the realm of practicality. I have always sought out my role models to study their habits and to check my reality. I can’t help but to enjoy asking these people questions, making them laugh, and searching for what they do differently. What better platform to interact with very special people than through a blog. It’s remote, and a great “excuse” to engage with extraordinary ladies and gentlemen. Reading about these people can be helpful, but I’ve done enough of that. I am looking to build real relationships and become a peer to these people, not an ogling spectator. Doing the communicating myself will further develop my individual voice.

There is so much content online, and it feels like just about everybody is a blogger these days. Therefore, my expectations for instant success are justifiably low, but I do believe that the above reasons will more than compensate for a mediocre financial outcome. Of course I am seeking success and financial freedom, but not above studying myself and others around me. What good can money do in the absence of purpose and motive. Money and power are only leverage toward these self defined ends.

So here I begin – where I stand by the numbers (and in between them):

Goal: Financial freedom. To be able to pay for my current lifestyle in passive income by the age of 30.

Why: I am very happy with my standard of living, though I hope to remove the anxiety and stress of meeting obligations like bills. These concerns make my decision making very short-sighted, and beholden to the interest of others who do not have much concern for my well being. Becoming financially free offers the option to do work that I love, and move on when a situation does not fall in line with my long-term goals (more on those shortly).

Does the grass simply look greener? Perhaps, but my look into the lives of people who have earned financial independence with similar personalities encourages me to believe that there is a real improvement to life when short term obligations are not a gnawing concern. It is inspiring to watch these people explore creative and didactic endeavors that a working lifestyle could not possibly afford. Things like extended travel, intensive tutoring, and aggressive fitness goals are inherently challenged by the conventional work arrangement and I would like to make them a larger part of my life. Additionally, I want to be there for my family, girlfriend, and a few very close friends in a way that is currently not feasible. The goal is not to stop working – it is to find an arrangement that is on my terms. Unfortunately, financial constraints limit my bargaining power significantly.

Current Finances and Career

Age: 25

Bachelors Degree – Economics and Psychology with 3.5 GPA (2013)
Location: Jersey City, NJ
Job: Physical Energy Trader/Operator

Salary: $80,000 with 30% bonus (~$100,000/Year)
Uber Driver: Est $5,000-$10,000/Year
Total Income: ~$105,000/Year
Monthly After-Tax and Health Insurance Income: $4,000
Passive Income: $0

Savings: $5,000
401k: $15,000
Total Savings: ~$20,000

Student Loans: $6,000
Car Loan: $14,000
Personal Loan: $4,500
Total Debt: ~$24,500

Rent: $1,275/Month
Tolls: $125/Month
Gas: $150/Month
Food (for two): $1000/Month
Car Loan: $270/Month
Insurance: $150/Month
Online Course: $100/Month
Student Loans: $100/Month
Utilities: $150/Month
Personal Loan: $150/Month
Monthly Expenses (“Unavoidable”): $3,545

How to Improve my Situation

Why am I not farther ahead in the money game? It’s something I care about deeply, yet I am spending very close to my income. I believe that my current situation does not reflect the longer term outlook of my finances. For one, I had $20,000 in savings one year ago. Unfortunately, my girlfriend and I had to take action on a few items in a short span of time. For one, we had a car break down for good, which led to the purchase of a Subaru station wagon. This cost $4,000 in down payment, and added a monthly liability to our books.

Additionally, my girlfriend has the dream of being a software developer. Given the circumstances, a coding boot camp in New York City was the best move to make. Unfortunately, this meant paying about $13,000 in cash, and moving to Jersey City, New Jersey. Since we have one car, she needs to be close to commute into the city for her program and eventual job. I take the car for an hour long commute to work. Which added tolls and gas to my equation. Paying our security deposit and rent wiped out the rest of my savings, which leaves me where I am today. It was a big adjustment going from no rent, no tolls, no additional car payment, lower cost of living, and $20,000 in savings, to all of those bills, and no savings. However, we have cut our lifestyle back and are meeting our bills.

The good news is that additional income is on the horizon. I am due for a $5,000 raise in the next month. This will give me almost $500 more per month in income. Additionally, my girlfriend has completed her boot camp and will find a job shortly. Adding an income of $50,000-$100,000 will be a huge boost and take a lot of the heat off! Tax season is also around the corner, and a refund will pad our coffers further. I just began my job as a trader/system operator, which puts me on a great shift schedule. This was all part of my strategy, as it frees up a great deal of uninterrupted time for side businesses. For instance, on a five week schedule I get a minimum of three days off at a time and a full week off at one point in the rotation, with multiple two week periods off throughout the year. That is some major time to hustle on the side!

The below projects are what I have in the works:

Amazon FBA Selling
I am going to dip my feet in the Amazon selling pool. I’ve targeted yoga balls as my first product to private label and list. I have received my quotes from suppliers, and am finishing up on my product logo now. The logo will be applied to the ball before it is shipped to Amazon for handling and fulfillment. My downside risk is capped with this opportunity, and I could stand to make a tidy profit while learning the system with a simple, generic product.

Online Blog
Like I mentioned in the beginning of this post, if this blog makes me a dime, it’ll be gravy. That said, I absolutely plan to position it as open for commercial opportunities, but never at the expense its utility as a tool for self reflection. One thing that I am intent on is using this blog as a vehicle for meeting and interviewing people I admire. I am not even a pimple on anyone’s ass online, but I will be busting my butt this year to get this blog in front of the right people – because the right people attract the right community, and I can’t think of a more beautiful thing than putting out material to engage smart, savvy people on issues that I hold dear. That is my motivation to be “just another blogger”, and to grow this site from the pittance of attention it currently attracts. I think I have about three people visiting this site on a given day, and they’re probably coming here by accident… but that’s what you get when you promise yourself that you’ll write 20 solid posts before doing any promotion.

Website
Ridesharediaries.com is a domain name that I recently purchased. I’ve had an amazing experience driving for Uber, even though the compensation is sub-par. The people I have met range from entertaining to outright fascinating, including a manager for some of the biggest music artists in the world, the CEO of a mega fashion label, and a high frequency trading hedge fund manager. I posted in a forum asking what people’s most interesting ride share stories were. The first answer I received said something along the lines of, “the stories that you mention only seem special because you are new to this”. On a given day, the broad range of stories that are born must be quite large, and I am looking to create a curated online destination where people can both view and contribute the best Uber and Lyft tales. I plan to delegate a lot of this work and have the site up/running shortly.

Consulting
I recently met with the founder of a firm that I greatly admire. This man sent out an email to all students in my business school during my junior year, asking if anyone would like to take detailed notes for a conference that he was sponsoring. The catch was that the conference was the next day, you had a three hour drive, and needed to report at 6am. This man was a former hedge fund manager, and at the time a President of a Wall Street brokerage, so I was surprised to hear that I got the gig. I drove down at 2am, showed up at 5, and took the most detailed notes of my life, turning them into a 40 page research document in less than 24 hours (all during finals week in college). We’ve been in touch ever since, and I’ve wanted to work with this man in some fashion or form. With my new schedule, he agreed to bring me on as a consultant at his company, which now arranges conference calls and meetings between industry executives and large investors like mutual/hedge fund portfolio managers. The fact that I am going to get paid for a remote job doing something that I love (meeting, wheeling, and dealing), that is both on my time, and directly under this man gives me goosebumps already. I am giving him a sixty day trial period to show him my stuff, and then we are coming back to the negotiating table to work out a deal (I have to deliver).

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What else am I working on?

At this stage in the game, I’m early enough in my career that certifications still matter. I just finished up a long and involved test that allows me to operate power plants and transmission facilities from a control room. I have one other power industry certification to get before I can look into other things. This one is overlapping and easier than the first, so I have a bit of breathing room.

From here, I’m looking into the CFA (chartered financial analyst) or FRM (financial risk manager) certification. These would both add some credibility to my name in my given field, but are large drains of time. I’d rather be successful than have 17 letters after my name, so I am weighing whether I want to go full monty on these certs – they could cut into my other pursuits. However, I value that they offer job security, or a way back into the industry if I ever decide to take a sabbatical.

Finally, it’s not in the works yet, but once I start generating some side income, I want that to go into a property, ideally a multifamily home that I can rent out half of. I love the idea of real estate ownership – fixing a house up in my community to rent out to a local tenant, having the mortgage paid in the process. I have a friend who is an amazing real estate analyst, and I drive around checking out properties and picking his brain whenever I can. One day soon, I’ll be able to dive in.

My new schedule allows me the time to do things I could never do on a 9-5 grind, and I’m so grateful for that. I’m not trying to hide anything. This site isn’t professionally minted because I am new to this. I hope you’ll stick with me through the process, and drop me a line along the way with a question, critique, or word of encouragement. It feels funny to write a blog post that hardly anybody is reading, but I don’t care very much. If I’m not putting myself out there, then how the hell am I going to perform when it really counts?

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