by Jessica Dang
This is the second part in my Minimalist Guide to Money and Investing. You can read Part I here, which explains my views on Motivation and Environment, and Mindset and Education.
You can also read about my Minimalist Meditations on Wealth and Money. This post will be about:
3—Accumulating Capital and Allocation
So you’ve decided that you want to be an investor. You’ve worked hard to change your pre-existing views about money, and you’ve been reading and learning a tremendous amount about investing. You want to have a life of freedom, but it doesn’t come cheap. How do you get started?
Well, either you save money to get started, or you make money to get started.
Saving money to invest—How much money you have depends on this simple formula:
Money You Have = Money earned – Money Spent
If you want more money at the end of the day, you can either earn more, or spend less. That’s it. But if it’s so simple, then why do so many people get it wrong? They don’t earn enough, or they spend more than they earn, which means they have little or no money left by the end of each month.
Even worse, if the money leftover is negative for long enough, people get into debt, which can spiral out of control. I understand that it’s not easy for everyone. Some might not be able to find a job, others have family to take care of. I never said it was going be easy, but most of the time there is something that can be done—downsizing, reducing purchases, eliminating entire bills/subscriptions/memberships, anything!
One of the great side effects of living a minimalist lifestyle is all of the extra money you save from deciding that you don’t need so much junk in your life. Not only that, but if you use those savings wisely, it can buy you things worth way more in the future.
I like to call this reducing your life overhead. Overheads usually refer to the costs of running a business, but there’s no reason why it can’t apply to your life. Keep your overheads low and even if you don’t earn a lot, you’ll have some ‘profit’ leftover.
I had a very average salary when I worked full time. I chose to live in a city where rents were reasonable and I didn’t need to drive a car. I had a capsule wardrobe of work clothes, only went out occasionally, and I ate well but not expensively. By the time I quit my job, whereas most people would barely have enough money to make ends meet, I had nearly a year and a half worth of savings that I could fall back on to pay the bills. If I was even more frugal, I could have lasted two years or more.
But I didn’t want to just live off my savings. My intentions were to use my savings to buy freedom. I wanted to use at least a chunk of my funds to generate a passive income with so that I didn’t have to work again. I will go into more detail about how I did this below, and in a future post.
Making money to invest—On top of your existing savings, you can always try to earn more money to invest. Generally, the more money you start with, the more quickly you will reach financial freedom, if that’s your goal. This doesn’t mean that if you have a million dollars you can just do nothing, it can quickly run out if you don’t use it wisely to generate more dollars.
Even after leaving my job I continued to earn money via various online jobs. A quick Google search will show all the different ways you can make money online.
There are so many ways to make money if you keep your eyes open for the opportunity. Even within the realm of property, there is a lot of advice on how to start investing even if you don’t have a penny. For example, you can do something called ‘rent-to-rent’ (google it) or you can build a network (free), source deals (free or nearly free), and package and sell them to money-rich/time-poor investors for a fee (usually in the region of a few thousand dollars). This is just one example to prove that if you are resourceful enough, you can definitely make money in this world.
Okay, enough about savings. Once you have some money, how should you use it?
What you decide to use your money for is absolutely crucial. It’s what differentiates you from the Scrooges and the spenders and it determines whether you succeed or fail.
Firstly, if you have any expensive debts, you must get rid of them first. Any returns you make in investing are not likely to cover things like credit card debt, pay day loans, or anything with a very high interest rate.
It would be like trying to fill a tub with a huge hole at the bottom. You have got to close the hole(s) first. Some cheaper debts such as student loans may be okay to keep as long as you calculate that the yields you’ll get with investing will outweigh the cost of the loan. This may depend on your personal circumstances.
You may end up having to work extra hours, take on a second job, or be very frugal for periods of a year, or two years, or more. However long it takes, it’s worth the peace of mind to become debt-free.
Secondly, after covering your debts, you need to have enough earnings and savings to cover your living expenses and then some, so that you have a nest egg for emergencies. Some people suggest one or two months, especially if they have specialised skills where they can always find a job, but I would recommend having at least three or six month’s contingency for expensive emergencies.
Finally, only when you have some money left over after all that (it can be as little as a few dollars) you can start investing.
I will talk more about how specifically to invest in the next blog post, but the basic premise of most investments is that you are investing for income and/or capital growth.
What this means is that some of your investing will be to make a short term return (yield) and some will be to make money in the future (capital). A lot of investments are a bit of both, such as shares which give you a dividend and hopefully go up in value over time, and property, which will hopefully give you rental income in the short term, and capital income in the future.
You will need to allocate your investments so that you earn some of both—enough short term returns to cover some or all of your monthly expenses, and enough in future capital growth so that you will have (sometimes a lot more) money in the future as well.
So what did I do in the end? After making sure that I had my basic needs covered at least for the next few months, I ended up investing a chunk of my savings into property. I chose property because it’s one of the only things you can borrow money to invest in. Also, the short term yield (the rent) will help cover my monthly expenses to live, and the long term capital growth will help me grow my income and wealth in the future. I also chose it because I live in Manchester, an amazing city that is booming at the moment and a great place to invest in property, for now.
On top of my own money, I managed to borrow some money from family, and I took out a mortgage after carefully calculating that the apartment(s) I wanted to buy would return a profit after expenses. I will go into the details in the next post, including examples of my income/expenditure/profit figures.
A brief note about borrowing money and where to allocate your debts—there is such a thing as good debt and bad debt. ‘Bad debt’ costs you money, like when money is borrowed to buy depreciating assets or liabilities, such as a car or a holiday. When you use money in this way, it costs you. ‘Good debt’ on the other hand is money borrowed to buy assets that generate money, such as property that has a rental income higher than the cost of borrowing. The property can also be sold with a healthy margin over how much you borrowed. Overall, this means you’re making money.
The key here is to have a plan. Know your numbers—how much money do you earn? How much money do you spend? How much do you have to/want to invest? When can you start?How much do you want to earn from your investments? When by?
A lot of people don’t think about these sorts of questions and go plodding along in their working life, and shopping every other weekend without stopping to think about what they are doing. Both time and money are a limited resource. They can be foolishly wasted, or they can be invested wisely to generate more free time and more money to spend.
I will write more about my specific property investments in my next post, and how you can get started with investing even if you can’t afford to buy a property yet.
The Complete Guide to Property Investment — Rob Dix
I will refrain from recommending more than one property book. This is one of the best ones I’ve read, and it will give you a good idea of how making money in property works from beginning to end. I also recommend all other books by Rob Dix, and their Property Hub website. I go to their UK meetups every couple of months to discuss property and network with other entrepreneurs.
The Compound Effect: Jumpstart Your Income, Your Life, Your Success — Darren Hardy
A great book about how small actions can lead to big results. If you think you can’t be a millionaire one day, it’s because you’re thinking about millions of dollars right now, not one or ten dollars, which will compound into hundreds and then millions in the future if you make the right decisions. This book isn’t just about money, but also about how all of the life choices you make today will affect you in the future.
The Magic of Thinking Big — David Schwartzi
If you want to make it big, you have to think positively, optimistically, and proactively—in other words, think big. My copy of this book is full of notes and bookmarks. Containing inspirational stories and phrases like “When you believe, your mind finds ways to do” and “In everything you do, life it up,” I’ve read this book more than a couple of times and can’t recommend it enough.