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Earning More

Optimizing your Bank Account and Cards (My Bank Gave me $1000!)

Yeah, that’s right! My bank gave me $1000 this year, and you can do the same. (EDIT: We got even MORE in 2016!) With the top bank accounts available, super high-interest savings accounts, and credit card rewards, you can easily make as much. It might seem hard to find the optimal bank account and cards but check out how we did it.

Here is the thing; most personal finance recommendations will say to keep your money in high-yield savings accounts and use a good cashback credit card to get 1% back on all your purchases.  I say; do the math and see how much you can really get. We use reward cards to do a little travel hacking and fly for free.

Using credit cards for all your purchase can be very advantageous if, and only if, you pay back the full balance on time every single month. Interest on cards are way too high and it will affect your credit score if you are late on payments. If you are good with debt, then you should be more than fine using credit cards for rewards.

 

Use cash or credit cards?

I suggest you use a credit card for all your purchases for two reasons,

  1. It is easier to track since it is all in one place. (Try Personal Capital for free)
  2. You will get rewards for each dollar spent. (Find your optimal credit cards)

Now, of course, this assumes you manage your spending and always pay your full balance on time. It is very important to never pay any credit card interest given their high fees (19%+). That is pretty easy to accomplish if you track your spending habits.

Personally, I try to put every single expense on cards, not only store purchases but also municipal taxes, online purchases, work expenses (I get them reimbursed but still get the cashback).

 

Cashback or rewards?

If we put it in numbers, a 1% cash back means that on an average spending of 2000$ a month, you only make 20$ in cashback a month. Not that great!

Where it gets interesting is with travel reward cards. We have multiple cards and earn a return over 5% in travel points!!!

Of course, you need to be a traveler to make it worth it but I know my points will be spent given my urge to see the world. Some cards offer points that are not restricted to one single airline. You can also convert your points to Aeroplan or other points programs and combine reward cards to accelerate your accumulation.

 

Getting more than one card

It is super easy to apply for multiple cards and accumulate thousands of dollars worth of points over a short period of time. I suggest you do not apply for more than one card a month but some people get away with 4 or 5 times as much without ever getting denied.

You can even book rental cars, hotels, or even cruses with reward points. We used them on our honeymoon and saved a ton by doing so!

If you have a high credit score and good credit history, you can seek out the welcome bonuses many cards offer and apply to them just for the rewards. If you apply to multiple credit cards, you need to look for the minimum purchases required to get the bonus (most American Express cards are $1,500 in the first 3 months) and you need to watch your credit score if you are doing too many applications at the same time.

 

Read the conditions and fine prints

When choosing a credit card you need to consider the annual fee, of course, but with most banks, you can get it waived if you have multiple products with them or apply during a promotion. Make sure you read the fine prints and maximize your rewards by paying attention to the payback structure.

In some cases, some purchases will give out more points depending on the category such as gas and groceries. You can optimize your cash back by having different cards for different expenses. Some cards advertise a 5% cashback but the fine print specifies that it is only on groceries and gas then 1% on everything else. You can also look into airline credit card if you fly frequently and plan on using your card to pay for travel expenses. Many airline credit cards are specific to a single carrier but can offer great advantages.

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Find your card today and start earning those SWEET miles!

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Optimizing your bank account

With so many banks and so many choices, you might find it hard to choose the best bank account. Either for your checking or savings accounts,  your banking could end up costing you more than you think. The most important thing to remember when shopping for bank accounts is that it should not cost you anything, it should reward you!

For any account you shop for, you should avoid the following fees:

  • Account maintenance or administration fees.
  • Withdrawal penalty fees.
  • Minimum balance penalty fees.
  • Deposit penalty fees.
  • ATM use fees.
  • Account link/online banking fees.

Some banks even use promotions to get you in but will charge you fees after a certain period of time or will charge high fees for less common things like Replacement Debit Cards or  Incoming Wires. You should always read the fine print before signing up for anything. Open an account online today and start getting the most out of your bank account.

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You should make money, not pay fees

With interest-bearing checking accounts, you will be able to generate a few bucks out of your day-to-day account instead of paying monthly fees. After searching, I found that the Discover Cashback Checking is one of the highest paying checking accounts given its reward structure.

You can get 10¢ cash back for every single purchase you make, no matter the dollar amount. Their cap is 100 transactions per month which work out to 120$ in cash back per year. Compared to most other banks where you usually need to pay monthly fees on checking accounts, it is a pretty good deal. On top of this, their cashback checking does not require any minimum balance!

 

You should save money

For any unplanned little thing that life could bring us, we all need an emergency fund. You should have at least 3 months of living expenses in cash for those unbudgeted events. Some go as far as 6 months but it all depends on your job security and personal preferences.

Your emergency fund should not be in a checking account. You should simply open a high-yield savings account and earn a higher interest on those thousands put aside.

I suggest you shop around for the highest paying savings account and pay attention to the services offered. Some online banks will offer ATM access, some others don’t. Some online platform such as CiT Bank will offer unlimited transactions without any monthly fees.

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Now, how about Canada?

For Canadians like me, none of the Big Banks offer very high yields. We do have options with online banks such as PC Financials or Tangerine but the service might be lacking.

Another option for those of you who have a brokerage account (you really should) is to invest in High-Interest Saving Accounts at discount brokers. Such funds have symbols like BTB100, ATL5000, or RBF2010.

To purchase those funds, simply enter a mutual fund order with the proper symbol. *Make sure your broker does not charge any transaction fees for HISA.

These offer higher rates than money market funds and are guaranteed by CDIC up to $100,000.

If you are fine with an online-only bank without access to ATMs, I found that Alterna Savings offers a great rate on their savings accounts and works great as an emergency fund.

Finally, I’m sure you can achieve and surpass my accomplishments. Simply choose the right card and use the right bank account to maximize your returns. You should do everything to optimize your returns such as keeping your emergency fund in a high-yield savings accounts and opening a cash back checking account on top of optimizing your credit card rewards. On this, let’s see how we do next year!

 

Be happy, Xyz.

 

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Categories
Financial Independence

6 Books to Reach Financial Independence and Retire Early

So here is the thing, knowledge is power. If you want to reach financial independence, you will need all the power you can get. There are a ton of blogs out there but if you are like me and prefer the paperbacks, here are 6 amazing financial independence books. With these in hand, you will be set for success.

To get ahead in the game, I found that a cheap, easy way, to gain knowledge was reading regularly. Make it a habit of reading a lot and often.

Books are cheap entertainment and it can teach you a bunch of things that you might not have thought of otherwise.

I have recently started reading a book per week and it transformed the way I see books. I used to stray away from books, now I devour them. If it will get you off Netflix a bit, it cannot be that bad! 🙂

For all of you out there aiming for financial independence, you need to grow and explore a new mindset that will prioritize your wealth and wellbeing.

I wanted to share with you some books that I really enjoyed so far and changed me a bit along the way. These are, for me, the best books on financial independence and the tools to get there.

 

Early Retirement Extreme

Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence The first book on my list is not for everyone but definitively an eye-opener. Early Retirement Extreme: A Philosophical and Practical Guide to Financial Independence by Jacob Lund Fisker is about retiring on a very small budget, very early!

Jacob runs a blog over at EarlyRetirementExtreme.com that is pretty instructive and offers a ton of free content. I enjoyed his take on early retirement since it makes it available to the lower and middle-class and anyone starting out his career.

I could easily relate to Jacob’s book since he puts up a very achievable goal. He retired on a tiny budget and follows traditional values to maximize his life. It is an excellent read for anyone, whether you make $20 an hour or $200, the principals shared are always relevant.

If you are earning under $50,000 a year, it can be hard to save up a million dollars and you might get demotivated before the first decade but fortunately, we do not all need $1M to retire. 🙂

 

The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing

Best book for financial independenceOn the investment side, I really liked The Bogleheads’ Guide to Investing by Taylor Larimore, Mel Lindauer, and Michael LeBoeuf. This book was written by John C. Bogle (Founder of Vanguard) fanboys (Bogleheads) and covers great strategies to invest properly with Vanguard.

 

 

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing

The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market ReturnsIn addition, I would also recommend The Little Book of Common Sense Investing: The Only Way to Guarantee Your Fair Share of Stock Market Returns by John C. Bogle.

Those two complement themselves as the base to index fund investing. John C. Bogle is the founder and CEO of Vanguard and literally changed Wall Street by giving the chance to everyday retail investors to participate in the markets at a very low cost. I use this approach to investing in my own portfolio and believe that low-cost index fund strategies are one of the best ways to accumulate wealth.

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Owning a diversified portfolio of stocks and holding it for the long term is a winner’s game. Trying to beat the stock market is theoretically a zero-sum game (for every winner, there must be a loser), but after the substantial costs of investing are deducted, it becomes a loser’s game. Common sense tells us – and history confirms – that the simplest and most efficient investment strategy is to buy and hold all of the nation’s publicly held businesses at very low cost. – John C. Bogle.

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Many books can change the way you see and perceive wealth. It is often overlooked but most wealth creation comes from simply having and following the right behaviours.

 

The Millionaire Next Door

The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America's WealthyA real eye-opener for me was The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley and Dr. William D. Danko. This covers a 20 year-long research that the authors performed interviewing millionaires across the country.

The findings show the common traits that most millionaires share and their path to amass such wealth. I found it very interesting to compare with my own behaviors and spending/saving habits.

This is a quick read that can help you improve your financial habits or general views on life. It is always so fascinating to see how normal wage earners like plumbers and teachers can reach financial freedom and retire early.

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Nearly anybody with a steady job can amass a tidy fortune. – Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

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Millionaire Teacher

Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School Another good inspiration for me was the Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School by Andrew Hallam. This book shows how simple index fund investing and a proper investment methodology can help any middle-wage individual become a millionaire.

The author was a schoolteacher who has accumulated great wealth simply by sticking to the plan. Like Jacob’s book, this helps any middle-class investors to relate. A very inspiring book that shows a clear step-by-step to wealth building. It shows the very principles I teach here; younger investors should invest steadily, automatically, stop looking at stock market news, ignore the “professionals”, and, invest in low-cost index fund investing.

 

The Wealthy Barber

The Wealthy BarberFinally, for the folks like me from Canada, a good start is The Wealthy Barber by David Chilton.

This is a comprehensive, step-by-step book that offers the Canadian’s perspective on the basics of personal finance. Explained in Lehman’s terms, this is a great start for anyone just starting off.

David Chilton goes through the basics of personal finance but he does not directly aim towards financial independence or early retirement like the other books discussed here. He rather guides ordinary people to comprehend, adapt, and keep a healthier financial picture.

 

To conclude, I hope you get your bedside table ready and get reading!

Take your time, read one at the time of the next 6 months if you need. Just like investing and reaching financial independence; reading is not a race. Go at your pace and remember that consistency is key.

If you do not feel like reading whole books, you can always subscribe to our mailing list to receive our articles every week!

Xyz.

 

Categories
Financial Independence

How to Reach Early Retirement and be Happy

Way before even thinking about early retirement, we all have that moment when we sit down and think; what do I want out of my life? You can have a great job, great family, health and all but still do not know what you want out of life.

For me, this was at 23. I was working full-time, one year in a great relationship and thinking about getting a house. Few goals in mind but I was not thinking of early retirement quite yet.

Extreme early retirement

Each pay, I was investing a large part of my income simply because I wanted to buy stocks. I saw the appeal of owning companies I liked such as Apple, Tesla, Facebook but I did not have any long-term plan or vision.

It took me a while but I finally took the decision to minimize my spending and increase my savings in the hopes of buying a house. With a concise plan in mind, I started cutting on anything that did not give me joy-for-the-value.

how to cut the cord

Slowly, cable was replaced with Netflix. Bar nights replaced with house parties. Soon enough, it all added up to good savings. After a year of investing, I sold all my stocks and we bought our first house.

I saw what others were splurging on but came to realize that it was not things I needed to be happy.

In my field of finance, for example, almost everyone drives to work in a brand new BMW or Mercedes. I was walking to work, living downtown, so I did not have a car. Once we needed one we got a used, 2007 SUV with low mileage and paid cash.

Here is the thing about cars, they are monetary sinkholes. On average, a car will lose 40% of its value in the first three years. So I thought to myself; what do I want to spend my money on?

 

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Older cars can still look nice and still run great! The other advantage of spending less on the purchase of a car is the incredible savings you will make paying cash rather than taking out a loan. Car loans can go up into the double digits of interest. You will end up paying almost double the price for that fancy new toy. You can see my calculations behind my car purchase if you want to see the reasoning of my purchase.

 

We live well, eat well, travel a lot… but always live under our means.

 

It is all about the lifestyle.

I really wanted to save enough for a down payment in one single year. That was not an easy feat but I achieved that.

As I continued to earn, I continued to save and invest. Had to think about the next goal, the next thing to save for… For me it was; early retirement.

If that is what you want to, you are at the right place. The very first steps are to cut the small things since they are the easiest to stop and often add up to a good chunk of your spending. Restaurants, bars, snacks, and outings can really add up.

You should really take the time to make a budget and track your expenses or use platforms such as Personal Capital to do it automatically. Once you have paid off any high-interest debt you have, you can start saving and investing.

 

Pay yourself first

Besides budgeting, you can set up automatic savings and invest a portion of each paycheck. Then, live on what is left to drastically increase your savings rate.

You do not need to be born in wealth or make a million dollars a year to be wealthy. Fortunes build themselves but you need to steer it in the right direction.

If there is one thing to keep in mind is that as a young saver, you have every chance in front of you. With dedication and perseverance, anyone making an average salary and living below their means can retire early.

Life is meant to be lived. If a slight change in lifestyle can get you to save and reach financial freedom, go for it!

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Living on half our salaries

The basic goal I have given myself is to live on half my income and invest the rest. If you can live below your means and save a good chunk of your income, your dollars will work for you.

Your savings rate is a cornerstone to the number of years you will need to stay in the workforce.  The more you save, the less you actually live on and therefore, afford that lifestyle in early retirement.

 

Your personal savings rate =

Annual savings including any employer match (or any debt repayments) x 100


Total income less taxes, plus any employer match

 

For example, if you end up saving about 75% of your income, you are buying yourself three years of retirement for each year at work. With the magic of compounding, you will be able to generate enough passive income to pay for your lifestyle after a few years of hard work.

From previous research, we can assume that withdrawing 4% of our portfolio, adjusted for inflation, is safe to last and survive major market crashes. If one would want to retire on a  4% withdrawal rate, it would only take 7 years of work to save up enough money to safely retire solely on investments.

 

Use every advantage you get

Personally, I am currently saving 50% of my income each year and I am hoping to save up to 70% soon. When used in the proper tax-advantage accounts (401k / RSP), your savings will actually lower your taxes and you will barely feel the hit.

For example, I am currently at a 45% marginal tax rate, this means that for every dollar I invest in my tax-advantaged accounts, I actually feel a hit of only 55¢ (I got this figure since earning $1 working would only give me 55¢ to spend). This figure is even lower if you get an employer match!

I have included below a chart to illustrate the power of your savings rate. Feel free to play around with it in this interactive version. If you want to either pay off debts quickly or start saving for early retirement, you should learn to boss around your finances and build a strong budget. Bringing yourself closer to the 50% savings rate, or more can make any goal achievable relatively quickly.

 

saving rateSource: networthify.com

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Change your mindset

Savings are only a mindset. If you are thinking about it as something easy, it will be easy. To increase your savings rate, you need to start thinking:

How much can I save by doing this?

rather than

How much can I spend on this?

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I am not saying you should not shop around and look for the best prices. However, you should definitively think about how much you will save by not buying that thing.

To put it in perspective, someone that makes 50,000$ a year, for example, would be left with about 35,000$ (depending on the state but we are assuming here).

Now assume he is Mr. Average American saving only 6% of his salary like the majority of Americans do today. This means he could retire after only 62 years of work (so at about 80 years old!). Basically working until the government or a private pension pays for his retirement.

10 frugal tips to save money

If he is so average, Mr. Average probably pays 100$ a month for the newest iPhone with a nice big data plan that he probably does not need. He probably never thought about it but if he just saved that 100$ a month instead of spending it on a phone, it still adds up to 1200$ a year.

This small saving alone could actually decrease his working years to only 51.4 years and just like that, he can retire 10 years earlier by skipping the data plan. (Assuming 5% market returns. and that your current annual expenses are equal to your annual expenses in retirement)

Now, instead of following the average, if you choose to save half you are income like me, you can relax and enjoy the security of having a safety net and become financially independent after a few working years. Your future self will thank you when your safety net will grow enough to become your retirement nest egg!

Then, you can work (or not) on whatever you want to. You will have the leisure to live your life at your own pace, doing whatever you want.

 

Saving does not need to be a burden

It cannot be said enough; if you can live on less, you need to accumulate less wealth to support your future self. The basic idea is to hold 25x your annual expenses in investments to sustain yourself in whether or not you generate more income.

This comes from the assumption that a 4% withdrawal rate per year can sustain you with a very high rate of success. I suggest you play around yourself with cFIREsim or Personal Capital’s free tools to test out scenarios to really get the grips of it.

.Welcome to my blog and best of luck. Stay happy! Xyz.

 

 

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