7 Habits That Lead to Wealth

When most of us think of “wealthy” people today, we think of star athletes, movie stars and wealthy businessman. The fact is however that many “average” Americans are also quite wealthy, and it had nothing to do with their ability to play a sport, act or conquer the business world.

In fact, these people simply had a number of habits that helped them to become wealthy and, as people do with habits, they stuck with them in the long run and built their wealth, much the same as anyone else could do if they had the same habits. If you’d like to copy these habits you’re in luck because we put them together in today’s blog. Enjoy.

Habit #1: Being Patient. Building wealth takes quite a bit of time and, unless you win the lottery, you’ll need plenty of patience in order to become wealthy. Being patient means holding on to your car a few extra years rather than buying a new one, waiting for things you need to go on sale and, most importantly, letting your money accumulate in accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s, while compound interest does its job.

Habit #2: Being Satisfied. Many people are unsatisfied with their lives for whatever reason and purchase things in an effort to squelch their dissatisfaction. Commercials and advertising have one purpose; to make you think about the product or service they’re talking about will make you happier, better looking, wealthier or what have you. The fact is, if you’re satisfied you won’t need to spend money on those products, gadgets, cars or what have you because you’ll already be happy, feel good-looking and be on your way to being wealthy.

Habit #3:Being Organized. An organized person never pays late fees because they never pay their bills late, keeps on top of deadlines that can affect their finances and has a budget that’s well planned and executed.

Habit #4: Being Philosophical. A philosophical person can look at the financial mistakes that they’ve made and, rather than think themselves the fool, learn from them and not make them again.

Habit #5: Being Creative. Not all financial plans go well and, when they don’t, the creative individual is able to deal with the circumstances, move money around to pay off bills rather than go into debt and find cheaper alternatives to pay for things and get by until money isn’t so tight.

Habit #6: Setting Goals. One of the best ways to build wealth is to set financial goals, review them regularly and, once you’ve accomplished them, set new goals. The simple fact is that goals show you where you’re going and give you something to strive for. They’re like a roadmap to financial success and, without them, you’ll probably end up lost.

Habit #7: Continuous Financial Education. The only way to know if you’re making the right financial decisions is to constantly educate yourself, learn new financial information and then use that information.

If you don’t yet have these habits, but you want to become wealthy, your best bet is to adopt all of them and start using them regularly. It won’t be extremely easy and, as we mentioned above, you’ll need quite a bit of patience, but building wealth can be done and in fact people all over the United States are becoming wealthy every day.

If you need any help or have any questions about anything in today’s blog, please send us an email or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you ASAP with answers and advice.

Earning More: Short- versus Long-term Projects and Income

marathon-not-a-sprintI’m always struggling with how to balance my work. I don’t want to focus too much on projects that don’t generate much or any income right now but not also spend all my time on work where I make money but the income and growth potential are low. Lately, I’ve been starting to get frustrated when I feel like I’m spending too much time on projects that don’t bring in any income right now. But I’m resisting the urge to drop this work because I know that 1) I still have a job that provides steady income and 2) I’m building up for the long-term and for greater returns. Steve Jobs (thank you for everything and R.I.P.) didn’t build Apple overnight. He even ate free meals because he was so broke at one point in his life. But he succeeded by not being short-sighted. Here’s how to look at it in your life.

Short-term versus long-term

This isn’t really anything too scientific or complex, but this is how I group projects and work:

Short-term – This is something that generates money right now. It’s typically a time exchange for money (not passive), and there’s little potential for scale or growth. Pay is relatively low and probably won’t increase substantially.

Some examples: your job (for most people), selling stuff on eBay, anything that earns less than $25 an hour (arbitrary amount – this is just the ballpark for me right now) and you have to directly be doing it to earn money.

Long-term – This generates little or no money right now. It’s typically something that you spend time on with the hope that returns will be much higher in the future. It also has at least some passive income potential. If it does involve a time exchange for money, there’s an upside for increasing your hourly rate.

Some examples: creating a product, building a website and increasing traffic to it, building some other kind of business, or (if you don’t want to start a business) managing your investments

How to break it down by time

Here’s what my weekly breakdown looks like currently (I’m now tracking my side-work time):

Time spent on short-term work/projects

  • Job – 35 hours a week
  • Freelance writing – 3 hours a week

Total short-term = 38 hours

Time spent on long-term work/projects

  • Freelance work/partnerships – 10 hours
  • Blogging – 5 hours

Total long-term = 15 hours

Total short-term and long-term = 53 hours

Short-term time, percentage of total = 72%

Long-term time, percentage of total = 28%

This is just a rough idea to give you an idea of where I’m at. I realize this is pretty rudimentary, but I do have limited time to get stuff done, so I need to be effective with my time.

What if you don’t have a job?

Personally, I think as much time as possible should be devoted to long-term projects and goals. After all, these projects have larger and more desirable returns, they just take longer to get to. I want to get rid of the low-paying, short-term stuff as quickly as possible. Ideally, I would devote nearly 100% to long-term goals, but that’s not possible when you need some form of income to live.

Once I leave my job next year, I imagine that my time will shift to about 60% short-term and 40% long-term initially. This is mostly because I don’t expect that everything I do for immediate income will bring in a lot of $$ – I’ll probably have to settle for some lower-paid work that will simply take more hours to earn the level of income that I need than I would hope.

The best part about this model is that the more success that the long-term work brings and guarantees, the more you can “re-invest” time into other long-term projects. Once you start seeing returns from your long-term ventures, there’s less of a need to do the crappy, short-sighted stuff just to bring in income. My long-term goals are much more tied to my interests and aspirations in life rather than simply collecting money and living life day-to-day.

Does it have to be so complicated?!

Absolutely not. I’m just an analytical person, so I like to look at the numbers whenever possible (after all, numbers don’t lie). Don’t make this overly complicated. You don’t need to track hours and break it all down with percentages. At the very least, just have an idea of how you’re spending your time, and re-evaluate on a regular basis to check on yourself. If you’re busy putting out fires all the time and haven’t done anything to look at the long-term, that’s a problem.

Cliche (but true) – It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Do you evaluate what you do  in terms of short- and long-term? How does your time break down?

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photo by: Gamma-Ray Productions

How Much Time For Side Work?

how-much-time-side-workI’m off to the Financial Bloggers conference today (I’m writing this on the bus – the Megabus, actually!), and I’m trying to get at least a few hours of productive time in today while I travel to Chicago. That got me thinking: how much time do I actually spending working on projects outside of my job?

Today, my question for you is: how many hours a week do YOU spend on work, not counting a job? This could be anything from freelancing, writing, blogging, consulting, or other side work, etc. If you don’t have a job, simply include all the work you do in a normal week. If you don’t know, challenge yourself to track it next week.

I don’t usually know the exact number of hours, but I’m going to guess it’s about 12 hours a week, depending on how much I can fit it on weekends. I’m going to track this myself for the next week or two and see if I’m spending the amount of time on it that I think I am.

The second part of my question: how much time do you wish you were spending on this work?

Even with a job that I’m at for 40 hours a week, 12 extra hours a week doesn’t sound like a lot. There’s roughly 6 hours a weekday when I’m neither working nor sleeping.  On the weekends, there’s about 32 free hours total. That adds up to a whopping 62 hours of non-working, non-sleeping time each week. It’s extremely unrealistic to assume I’m going to get work done and be productive for all that time (hey, I have to eat, enjoy a beer, and watch football sometime!) Plus, it’s easy to get distracted and find other things to occupy my time.

Here’s what I think I can realistically do in a typical week:

9 hours of work on weeknights (Monday-Thursday)
6 hours total on the weekend (assuming I’m not traveling)

Total = 15 hours.

I can do more if I need to meet a deadline or just have something that I’m really motivated and excited to work on, but I want to avoid burnout by trying to squeeze in too much. Plus, I can get a lot accomplished in 15 hours if I really do solid, productive work. The actual quantity of time doesn’t mean a thing if you’re just goofing off when you’re supposed to be doing work. But I think the number of hours that you’re attempting to be productive is a good starting point for how effective you’re actually being.

Next week, I’m going to shoot for 15 hours of solid side-work and do my best to track it with my accountability journal. If I can earn roughly $25 per hour (which is what the minimum I think my time is worth) during these 15 hours, that would be an extra $375 a week that I can bank for meeting my $10k savings goal. I haven’t hit this mark yet, but I think the potential is definitely there if I work at it.

Again, here are my questions for you:

1) How many hours of work (or anything described as a business) do you do a week, not counting a job or other employment?

2) Are you satisfied with this amount? Or do you wish you could fit in more or get away with less?

Have a great weekend, and see some of you at FINCON!

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photo by: Dee Adams

Taking Side Work Beyond 40 Hours a Week

side-work-timeAs many of you know, I still have a full-time job where I work the typical 9-5. While I think this has provided me great structure, it has, of course, made things challenging for me, including keeping up with this blog. I know that’s nothing new, but I’ve managed to write consistently on Money Spruce for almost 8 months now, which is something I’m proud of and has been no small accomplishment. However, as I’ve taken on more responsibilities, it’s been harder to manage my time. Altogether, I’d say I’m at about 70% effectiveness in terms of how I spend my time productively, so I think there’s still room for improvement. Here’s what works and what doesn’t.

What Works Best

Keeping my schedule clear Monday-Thursday.  I do my best to not schedule any social events Mon-Thur after work. This is generally my most productive time during the week, and I like to make the most of it. I know I won’t get as much done on Friday and Saturday, which gives me more motivation to work on things during the week.

Scheduling my work. I’ve done a great job scheduling block of time on weeknights after work. I don’t always follow it perfectly, but it helps me prioritize and gives me the ability to be realistic about what I can get done, too.

Setting deadlines. I’ll never miss a deadline, especially if someone else is waiting for me and/or holding me accountable. Missing deadlines is unacceptable to me, so I just don’t do it. Whenever possible, I set real deadlines for myself to make what needs to happen, happens.

What I Still Struggle With

I wish I was perfect in dealing with all these things, but they have posed some tough challenges.

Days without the structure of my job. Simply put, I’m not as effective on days completely off from work as I am on workdays. This is mostly because of how I’ve made this side business work so far, but I need to figure out how to effectively devote more time to side ventures.

Burnout. When filling my nights and weekends with work after coming home from work, it’s easy to get burned out. Generally, I’ve experienced a fairly wide range of emotions when it comes to my side work. But I’ve never come close to throwing in the towel on everything.

Distractions. Most other 9-5ers don’t attempt to work nearly around-the-clock like I do. Those that work full-time, like me, often take the nights and weekends off completely. My friends want to hang out and do things during the times that I want to be productive, which makes it hard to say “no.”

Mornings. I simply can’t get things done in the morning before work. For now, I prefer to stay up as late as possible and then just sleep later in the morning. Plus, it seems I’m most creative later on in the day, anyway.

What Will Help

Partner Up. If the right opportunity comes along, I’d love to partner on an exiting project. Who knows, maybe some opportunities will come my way at FINCON11 next week! There’s definitely potential with the crew in Location Rebel, too.

Keep accountability. I just started my accountability journal to coincide with Think Traffic’s Million Dollar Blog Project. Based on what he’s seen in his paid courses, Corbett is convinced that those that keep a journal are much more likely to succeed. I’m committing to updating this at least once a week, and making sure I stay on task. Please, keep me accountable, and I’ll let you know how well it works for me!

Schedule more effectively. I’m a believer in scheduling my time in order to get the most done. It helps me prioritize my work but also helps me to figure out when I’m doing to schedule in some fun stuff. I’m going to do my best to schedule time on weekends, too, so I can get what I need done while working around other commitments and activities.

Keep a regular “shut down” schedule. It’s easy to feel like you need to be doing work all the time. But that’s simply not going to happen. In order to keep the overwhelm low, I’d like to try shutting down my computer at the same time every week. I’m thinking something like Saturdays after noontime would be best to get away from the computer.

Practice. As I pointed out, I’m currently not very effective at working on days when I don’t work. There’s too little structure. But, the reality is that, if I’m going to quit my job, every day will be like this. My plan: take a few days and practice treating it like a freelance work day. I’ll do this either on holidays, vacation days, or, perhaps, Saturdays. This would be a good test for coworking, too. Whatever it takes, I need to get this down.

Do you have any struggles like these? Share in the comments.

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photo by: Philo Nordlund

Taking Time Between Jobs and Adding Vacation Time

take-time-off-cancunAs I announced on here a few weeks ago, I’m starting a new position at my nonprofit soon (August 29). I’m super psyched to finally be getting paid more than the meager stipend I get now. But I’m also pumped for my 2 week break before I officially start my job! I’m camping in NH and ME for the first week, then hitting the beach in Cancun for the second half. It’s not vacation time, so it’s unpaid leave, but I don’t mind that at all. Here’s why it works out so well:

I’ll save my valuable vacation time. I only get 15 total days of *paid* vacation per year, and this is the only time off that I’m allowed. I’m very stingy with those 15 days. I don’t take them off for just anything, and I’ll go months without using a vaca day if there’s not a good reason to use this time off. But I’ve gotten around the 15 day max by taking an unpaid leave while I change positions. Now, I’ll have a total of 25 days off this year, not even counting all the holidays I get, too. Yes, 10 of those 25 days will be unpaid, but time is more important than money to me at this point, so I’ll gladly take the unpaid time.

I’ve been inspired by some great stories of other people doing this, whether it’s been taking the time between jobs or just requesting unpaid time.

One of my co-workers (back in my days of being an engineering intern) took 6 months off from work to sail the Caribbean with his wife on his own boat. I caught up with him afterwards, and he explained the that it was one of the most amazing things he’d done in his entire life. He left his position on leave without the guarantee that he’d have a job when he got back because he was that committed to taking this awesome trip. The company liked him so much that they gave him his position back (although I’m certain he would have much rather still been sailing).

My sister is in a similar position this summer. Ally quit her (awful) job back in May. Instead of searching for a new job right away, she decided to take the summer and travel across the country by bicycle. They’re off having a blast somewhere on the West Coast right now. You can read more about their fun journey on their site Free Wheel Women.

I’m planning a similar escape to Ally’s for myself next summer. These two weeks off this year will be great, but I really want more. My new position is more or less temporary, and I plan to leave in May 2012. After that, the possibilities are limitless as to where I’ll travel. I’ve already thought about buying an around-the-world ticket and stopping in places like New Zealand, Holland, Czech Republic, and Ireland. I’m definitively considering South America, too. I have a ton of frequent flyer miles to work with, which will definitely come in handy.

After this journey, I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do. With my freelance career heating up, perhaps I won’t even come back to the U.S. for months.

I’ve digressed a bit, but my main point is that people that don’t take time off between jobs are really missing out. I’m not saying you have to take half a year off, but at least give yourself a break and take a few weeks. Most new employers will agree to that without a problem. You’ll be saving vacation time, or, if your job doesn’t provide vacation time to start with, you’ll at least have a break before you have to work months on end. If you’re a recent graduate, give yourself a few weeks after graduation to relax a bit and reward yourself for hard work. If money isn’t an issue for you and you’re always wishing you had more time to do what you love, this is really a no-brainer.

Have you taken time off between jobs?

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photo by: jthetzel

Top Five Wasters of Time AND Money

time-money-wastersAs I typed away on my first blog posts in January, my (now-former) roommates sat out in the living room playing hours of video games. They had three game systems and about 40 games in our apartment, so they never seemed to get bored of their options. As I watched them sit and play night after night, I couldn’t help but think of the amount of money and time that is wasted by stuff like video games. These types of things not only suck up time, but you have to spend money to do them at the same time.

Video games are expensive, with systems costing up to $400,  single games up to $60, and other add-ons that can take costs into the thousands. Video games can also be incredibly addictive, with some World of Warcraft players ending up in rehab for gamers (yes, that exists now).  It’s very easy to lose track on time while playing, too.  I bought a Playstation 3 a few years ago.  While I enjoyed it, I soon realized how much time I spent playing it. I ended up selling it after owning it for less than a year.

While this isn’t meant to be an all-out assault on video games or other things we do for pleasure, I think most would agree that video games are money and time wasters. Here are some other things we buy (and do) that cost a lot of  money and time.

Online shopping

Online shopping is often easier and cheaper than going to the store, but there are still downsides.  In my experience, online shopping leads to more impulse buying.  On a whim, I can simply jump on to Amazon.com and make a purchase any time of day.

From the time side of online shopping, I’ll get caught up in trying to find the best deals. I could browse shoes at Zappos for hours.  Once I find a shoe I like, I check other online shoe websites to compare prices and see if I can get a better deal.  I then search Google for coupon codes to use on the websites.  A lot of times I won’t even end up buying anything after getting frustrated because it’s taking so long to find the perfect purchasing opportunity.

Going out to bars

Don’t get me wrong: I love going out for a drink with friends as much as anyone.  But I have an issue when it becomes too frequent.  I don’t think anyone will argue that drinks are 2-5 times more expensive at a bar than when enjoyed at home.  Cover charges and tipping add on to the cost, too. Besides the money, going out for drinks always takes more time than I originally plan for.  I get talked into staying longer.  I drink more than I originally wanted to. I stay up later at night. I don’t feel like working after having a few drinks. Yes, it’s fun, but ultimately it costs me time towards working on other things that I want to do.

Commuting

Commuting isn’t the same as purchasing an item, but it can still be really expensive.  Driving to and from work has always been my least favorite part of the work day, and I’ve decided that I never want to spend two hours of my day in a car.  Driving 25 miles each way to a job can cost $150 a month on fuel alone. Besides the gas, there’s really no safe way to be productive while driving a car.  It’s basically a time sink and an easy way to lose 7-10 hours of free time a week.

Television

Closely related to video games, television attracts even more people.  Cable is ridiculously expensive.  The average customer pays $75 a month, with some people paying over $100.  If you invested instead of paying for cable, you’d have a huge pot of money (and probably a much smaller gut) at age 65.  Combine the price with the average American who watches almost 3 hours of television per day, and television takes the prize as the most damaging double-waster of all.

I understand that no one is productive 100% of the time, and we all need downtime for rest.  I think all of these activities are perfectly fine in moderation.  It’s when they’re taken to an extreme that they really get expensive and stand in the way of goals, too.

Do you have any time and money wasters to add to this list?

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photo by: Rebecca Pollard

The ‘One Touch’ Time Management Strategy: Cutting Down the Little Tasks

one_touch_time_management_strategiesI’ve been experimenting with different time management strategies lately, especially with small but frequent tasks that are total time drains.  I’m still planning my time around the workday, but reading emails and blog posts has been killing my free time. While I use Google Gmail’s Priority Inbox (highly recommended) to try to streamline the process, I just can’t seem to shake some of these emails.  I’ll read half an email, “star” it, then (hopefully) come back later to finish reading it.  The problem with this: when I come back, I have to start dealing with the email all over again.  I often run into the same issues I had dealing with the email the first time around.  It’s all a vicious cycle of email inaction.

This is where the “one-touch” time management strategy comes in and saves the day.  Instead of taking multiple stabs at dealing with an email, I only get one chance.  Once the email is open, I have to completely deal with it right there; there’s no going back.  It either gets 1) a read and replied to, 2) just read, or 3) deleted/archived.  Then it’s gone and out of my life.

While I’ve perfected this strategy on email, it works on lots of other tasks, too.

How to Implement the One Touch Approach on Anything

1. Identify the problem. No need to spend much time breaking the problem down.  It’s simple in most cases.  For example, let’s say is “how should I deal with the email I just received asking about plans for this weekend?”

2. Determine how long it will take to deal with this problem.  My one-touch method incorporates David Allen’s Two Minute Rule in Getting Things Done.  The Two Minute Rule says that if it’s something you must do and it will take you less than two minutes, do it right away.

3. Once beginning to deal with the problem, follow through until the process is complete.  In this case, replying to the email takes less than two minutes, so I would respond and send my message immediately. Once I do this: process complete. One touch success.

If it takes longer than two minutes, I don’t have to deal with the problem right away.  If the email I received involved paying a credit card bill instead, I would have the option to save it for later.

However, once I commit to solving the problem, I must complete the action 100%.  In the case of my bill, I would check to see what I owe, read over my statement, log into my online billpay account, and pay the bill.  A fragmented approach, such as simply reading my statement but then not paying the bill until later, would result in wasted time, a cluttered email inbox, and possibly forgetting to pay. I don’t want any of these things to happen nor do I want email or any other small tasks to pile up.

Where One Touch Works

Here are some examples of how I’ve implemented one-touch time management strategy.

1. Doing all of my dishes at once after eating dinner.

2. Hanging up clothes right after taking them off.

3. Click to unsubscribe email newsletters I don’t read.

4. Read a entire web page or blog post at once.

Overall, I find this strategy is best when a problem is realized and a response of some kind is definitely necessary, as in my email example.

The targeted tasks are rather insignificant, but that’s the whole idea. We encounter these little productivity roadblocks dozens of times each day, so blasting through them quickly and efficiently keeps the annoyances from piling up.

Have you tried similar time management strategies? Have you noticed a difference in how you handle small tasks? Share your story below.

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photo by: gagilas

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