Seven Things That Suck About Being an Entrepreneur and How to Outsource Them

How much is your time worth? People have probably spent more time than it’s worth thinking about this question. If you’re curious, you can spend some of your precious time figuring out how much your time is worth by using an online tool. Or you could just keep reading this article.

The truth is, time is priceless. You really only have about 70-80 years to live on average and every moment wasted is a moment you can’t get back (unless you’ve found the fountain of youth and in that case, please PM me immediately!).

The idiom “make time” is a false idea. You can not “make” time. As Chuck Wendig once said, “time is not feces. It’s a precious resource. You mine it. You steal it. You carve it out of the schist and bedrock.”

How do you carve time out? By giving time sucking things to other people to do. Let them waste their time doing them for money. Here are ten of the things that suck for Entrepreneurs you could totally outsource.

1. Customer Support

You may not yet be spending hours a day on customer support. But at some point, you’ll scale and at some point you’ll have more customers than you have time to deal with. While that’s a good thing, nobody has enough hours in the day to run a business and deal with customer complaints.

Customer support sucks. But customer support is extremely important. Nearly 80% of consumers have bailed on a transaction just because of poor customer service.

So, now you’re in a quandary. You spend too much time on customer support, but it’s important and it could break your business if you get it wrong. The answer is a professional virtual assistant.

You’ll want to look for someone who is skilled in your industry. Someone who knows your niche backward and forward will be better equipped to leap over any customer pitfalls.

2. Taxes

I once tried to do my own taxes back when I was the poor husband of a grad student. We ended up owing $150 when we probably should have gotten some money back. Ever since, we’ve gotten someone else to do our taxes.

When you own a business, taxes become an even bigger chore. You keep track of spending, deductions, employee payroll, etc.

And business taxes don’t just happen in one go like taxes do for the typical individual. You’re spending at least 30 mins a week doing your taxes. Get a CPA to do that for you and you’ll have more time to build your business.

3. Search Engine Marketing

There are people who do this for a living. For them, search engine marketing or SEM doesn’t suck. For the rest of us, SEM is a time suck.

You spend hours researching keywords, creating content, analyzing trends, etc. It all comes back to how much your time is worth. Are you getting value out of the time you’re spending? Could you do something better with that time?

Consider hiring an SEM agency to do the work for you. They can spend less time doing all the search-engine-y things you spend hours a week doing. And they can get results you probably can’t because you don’t have time to keep up with every little trick Google tries to pull.

4. Social Media Marketing

Let’s see here, we’ve got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Google+, YouTube… Did I miss any? Keeping track of your social media is  like trying to juggle ten balls at once and walking while you do it.

You can mitigate this with automation programs like Buffer, but you still must spend time writing posts and seeking out content. It’s a tedious task and you quickly get creativity fatigue.

Search on Upwork and other writer/freelancer platforms. Many writers will manage social media for you on the side.

5. Cleaning

Wait! Isn’t this an article for entrepreneurs? Why, yes, it is. And it’s an article for anyone who wants to have an efficient business.

What does your desk look like at this very moment? Are there stacks of papers, moldy coffee mugs, half eaten things you can no longer identify? You are being distracted by all of it.

Clutter can literally decrease your ability to focus. And it can even depress you. But if you’re like me, you look at the mess, say you *should* clean it up, and then put it off till later.

It’s never going to happen. And if it does happen, you’ll feel guilty you’re not working on your business. Here’s a secret: It’s absolutely worth the money to hire someone to clean your office or tidy your desk.

6. Inventory

This won’t apply to all entrepreneurs. Most freelancers won’t have to deal with inventory or merchandise unless they have a badass Patreon.

If you’re running your business out of your garage, inventory steals a lot of your time. You might even feel like Bernard Black when he has to order inventory “from the place where you order books from for when you want to sell them from your bookshop.”

It might seem like a pain when you run out of inventory, but it’s also good news. You want the good news vibe to remain, so you hire a fulfillment service.

A note of caution: a crummy fulfillment service could tank your business. Especially now that pretty much every major retail company offers two-day shipping, you’d better get a fast fulfillment service.

4. Finding More Income Streams

This one could seriously pay for itself. It seems like a vague idea, but it really could work.  You want to always add value to your brand anyways, and what better way than to have someone work on new avenues your business or brand could make more money?

Once you have a business rolling, especially a freelance business, you’re too busy kowtowing to

Clients and actually creating to find other streams of income. Maybe there are other projects you’d enjoy more, but you’re too busy putting beer on the table to find out if those projects exist.

What if a virtual assistant could find you projects totalling $10,000? Would they then be worth $5,000? You betcha! And then you could even hire someone to do a good amount of the work on the project, especially if it’s something that will continue to earn passive income like an e-book project or an online course.

Outsource Your Chinks

Everyone has a weakness. Find yours and cover it over with someone else’s strengths. That’s all that outsourcing really is.

What are some ways you’re carving out time for your business? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

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How to stay on top of home improvement ~ Get Rich Slowly

Yesterday was an exciting day at the Rothwards household! After three weeks of demolition and construction, we installed our new hot tub.

It took six men an hour of maneuvering before we managed to set the spa into place…but we did it. And we didn’t break anything. Now it’s a matter of completing the decking and roofing, then Kim and I will be able to enjoy our remodeled outdoor oasis!

Installing our hot tub

We’re eager for construction to be over. Since buying our “English cottage” last summer, we’ve poured tons of money and time into a variety of renovations. It’s been a non-stop construction zone.

You see, during the seventeen years the previous owners lived here, they performed very little maintenance and upkeep on the home and property. When we had the place inspected before purchase, the inspector raised a lot of concerns:

Warning from inspection report

The inspection report was so dire that Kim and I almost passed on the purchase.

After we did decide to buy the place, I vowed that I’d be a proactive homeowner. Instead of allowing things to fall into a state of disrepair, I wanted to fix everything that was broken and then stay on top of home improvement in the years to come.

Today I want to share four specific actions I’ve taken to try to be a proactive homeowner.

Develop a Schedule for Regular Maintenance

A great place to start with home improvement is to find (or create) a regular maintenance schedule. While you’ll definitely have projects specific to your own house (about which more in a moment), there are certain chores that ought to be done on a routine basis.

Here in Oregon, for instance, gutters should be cleaned both at the start and the end of the rainy season (late October and late April). Spring is a good time to wash windows, inside and out. It’s also time to clean and set up outdoor furniture. During the summer, I like to trim trees and shrubs back from the side of the house. Fall is a good time to inspect the attic and crawlspace.

To create our maintenance schedule, I started with this home maintenance checklist [Google Doc] based on an article from The Art of Manliness. I tweaked the document to fit our needs, adding and removing things specific to our home.

I’ve also discovered that it’s useful to add certain recurring tasks to my digital calendar. (I’m never going to remember to change the furnace filter unless I make an appointment with myself to do so.)

Create a House-Specific To-Do List

House To-Do ListWhile it’s helpful to have a general maintenance schedule to remind you of regular tasks, it’s even more important to keep an up-to-date to-do list that’s specific to your home.

I keep our to-do list in Basecamp, a web-based project-management tool that I already use for other projects. (I’ve heard good things about Asana too, although I’ve never used it.) You might keep your to-do list in a spreadsheet or even a spiral notebook.

For each room in the house and area of the property, I keep a separate list of tasks that need to be completed. To start, I populated these lists in two ways:

  • I went through the pre-purchase inspection report and added every problem the inspector had flagged. Some of the stuff he noted was minor. In these cases, I made sure to mark the task as “low priority”.
  • Kim and I made a slow tour of our home and yard in order to catalog other projects we wanted to complete. For example, every room in the house needs new paint. Every corner of the yard needs to be weeded and re-landscaped.

We refer to our to-do list constantly. Whenever we have a free weekend for home maintenance (as we did last weekend…and this coming weekend), we check the list to see which tasks are most pressing and/or most appealing.

Finally — and this is important (if somewhat obvious) — whenever we find a new project that needs to be tackled, we add it to our list. By keeping our home projects to-do list up to date, needed maintenance should never be neglected.

Keep a Home Journal

Before we even moved in to our current home, I started keeping a “home journal” to log everything we learned about the place. Honestly, it’s one of the smartest things I’ve ever done.

I keep this home journal in a Microsoft Word document. (I’ve uploaded an edited version to Google Docs for you all to look at.) Every time we do major work on the house, I make an entry in the journal. Every time we discover something new about the property, I make a note in the journal.

Here’s a typical entry from my home journal:

Our Home Journal

Each note includes a date and the type of work done, then a narrative description giving more detail. In some cases, I document costs. Most of the time, however, we keep receipts and invoices and other documentation in a dedicated Dropbox folder, which is where the home journal lives too.

This journal is mostly meant for me. From past experience, I know that I’ll forget what work we did when, which usually leads to a frustrating search for documentation. With my home journal, I have all of the needed info in one place.

This home journal has a secondary purpose. I want to use it as documentation if/when Kim and I decide to sell this place. I want to be able to show prospective buyers all of the upgrades we made to the house. (Note that this benefit is purely theoretical. When we sold our motorhome recently, we learned that many buyers view work like this as evidence there’s something wrong with what you’re selling.)

On a similar note, it’s smart to perform periodic video tours of your home and property. These are useful not only for you but also in the event of an insured loss, such as robbery or house fire. When shopping for a house, I film every home I tour. After buying and moving into a new place, I do another pass through with the camera. Going forward, I try to do a video tour about once per year.

Build a List of Trusted Contractors

Over the past fifteen years, I’ve learned that contractors come in all kinds of flavors. Some are cheap. Some are fast. Some do quality work. I’ve also learned that it’s impossible to find a contractor that possesses all three traits. Two of them? Sure. But not all three. (In other words, if a contractor is fast and high-quality, she’s going to be expensive.)

When we started looking for homes last Spring, my friend Emma Pattee — who has experience buying and remodeling rental properties — suggested that I start a spreadsheet to list trusted contractors. “My husband and I have done this for a while now,” she told me, “and it really helps. When we find somebody we like to work with (or think we might want to work with in the future), we add them to the spreadsheet. I’ll send you our current list, if you’d like.”

Kim and I have referenced Emma’s spreadsheet to find plumbers and electricians. We’ve also started building our own list of contractors we trust. (For instance, we love the guy who did our carport. We hired him to do our back deck project too. He’s not cheap, but his quality is amazing!)

Even with a list of trusted contractors, it’s important to follow standard advice when hiring folks to work on your place:

  • Get price quotes from multiple sources. It’s smart to know what your options are even if you ultimately don’t go with the lowest bidder.
  • Seek referrals. When you’re ready to hire somebody for a project, ask your friends (Facebook is good for this) and contractors you’ve liked in the past. I’ve found that good contractors know who the other good contractors are, and they’re happy to recommend them.
  • Ask for references. If you haven’t worked with a contractor before, request contact info from past clients. These references will be cherry picked, of course, but they’ll still give you some idea of what the company is like.
  • Check reviews on Angie’s List (or similar sites). View these reviews through skeptical eyes, but check to see if there’s some sort of pattern. I’ve been able to rule out potential contractors, for instance, because of multiple reviews complaining about lack of communication.

Searching for new contractors can be a little scary. You don’t want to make a mistake by choosing somebody who’s too expensive or whose work is shoddy. (Or, worse, both at once!) By maintaining a list of trusted vendors, you can reduce some of the trepidation. Plus, the list is something useful you can share with friends and family!

There’s No Place Like Home

I also think it’s smart to set aside money for future repairs and improvements. One common financial rule of thumb is to contribute 1% of your home’s value to a dedicated “home maintenance” savings account each year. After Kim and I are done with this initial round of work, we’ll probably do so.

The deck and hot tub project should be our final large home-improvement expense for many, many years. During the past eleven months, we’ve repaired and/or replaced every major system in this house. Sure, there’s still some small stuff that needs done — we want to paint each room, for instance — but these jobs are minor. They’re things we can do ourselves for cheap.

Honestly, I’m looking forward to some peace and quiet. It’s been exhausting to live and work in a construction zone!

First, though, I’m going to have our house inspected again. After plowing so many resources into repairing and renovating this place, I want to have a neutral third party go back through to make sure we’ve addressed all of the important issues — and that these issues have been handled correctly.

As frustrating (and expensive) as the past year has been, we don’t regret buying this house. We love it here. We want to continue loving this place, which means we’re going to do our best to stay on top of maintenance and home improvements. We’re going to do our best to be proactive homeowners.

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PayPal si rafforza in Europa: takeover sulla svedese iZettle

Il closing dell’operazione da 2,2 miliardi di dollari previsto per il terzo trimestre 2018: sprint sul fintech per le piccole e medie imprese. Il Ceo Dan Schuman: “Continuiamo a espandere la nostra piattaforma le aziende a vincere online”

PayPal mette a segno l’acquisizione più grande della sua storia con il takeover da 2,2 miliardi di dollari appena annunciato su iZettle, startup svedese del fintech, specializzata nello sviluppo di prodotti per le piccole e medie imprese come soluzioni di pagamento per dispositivi mobili e software di fatturazione.

Il closing dell’operazione è previsto per il terzo trimestre del 2018, dopo che saranno state ottenute tutte le autorizzazioni del caso e i via liberà delle authority regolatorie. Grazie a questa acquisizione PayPal avrà accesso a 11 nuovi mercati: “iZettle – spiega la società in una nota – diventa il centro europeo per l’eccellenza dei prodotti e i servizi di PayPal nei negozi”.

“Le piccole aziende sono il motore dell’economia globale – afferma Dan Schulman, Ceo di PayPal – Stiamo continuando a espandere la nostra piattaforma per aiutare a competere e vincere online, nei negozi e via dispositivi mobili”.

L’operazione, secondo le stime della società, andrà a diluire di 1 centesimo gli utili per azione pro forma preventivati per il 2018.

Con questa acquisizione PayPal apre la sfida a Square, la società guidata dal Ceo di Twitter Jack Dorsey, utilizzata dai negozianti per gestire pagamenti con carte di credito. iZettle è presente in 10 nazioni europee, tra cui l’Italia, ed è particolarmente radicata nei mercati di Regno Unito, Brasile e Svezia.

Mettendo le mani su quella che è stata definita la “Square d’Europa”, fondata nel 2010 e con headquarter a Stoccolma, che conta su oltre 500 dipendenti e che produce dispositivi e tecnologie usate da quasi mezzo milione di esercenti per accettare carte di credito. Il volume di pagamenti stimati dalla società per l’anno in corso è di 6 miliardi di dollari.

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Does the American Dream require a a big American home?

This is a guest post from Steve Adcock, who writes at Think Save Retire, a blog about early retirement and Financial Independence. Steve and his wife retired in their mid-thirties to travel full time in an Airstream trailer. For more info, check out their YouTube channel.

One of the most deeply-embedded pieces of the “American Dream” is the desire for a large, spacious home with lots of sitting rooms, corners, nooks, and crannies. Large dining rooms and other entertainment spaces! Wrap-around porches! Two- or three-stall garages and one heck of a master suite!

To many of us, a large home is a mark of success. A big house indicate status, and the more space we’re able to call our own, the more successful we look and feel.

But, what if I told you that most of us don’t use even a fraction of that space? That’s not just me talking. A research team affiliated with the University of California studied American families and where they hung out the most inside their homes, how (and where) clutter builds, and the general stress level associated with living big.

The findings were overwhelming: The majority of the space in our homes is wasted.

How We Use Our Homes

As J.D. shared on Saturday, researchers at UCLA conducted a detailed study of 32 dual-income families living in the Los Angeles area, one of the first studies to document so vividly how we interact with the things for which we’ve paid good money. The findings were not pretty. In fact, they helped prove how little we use our big homes for things other than clutter or objects that hold little intrinsic value.

From the press release:

The researchers doggedly videotaped the activities of family members, tracked their every move with position-locating devices and documented their homes, yards and activities with reams and reams of photographs. They asked family members to narrate videotaped tours of their homes and took measurements at regular intervals of stress hormones via saliva samples.

When I originally wrote about the study, I took special note of where families spent the large majority of their time. In the following UCLA-published diagram of one family that was studied, we can easily observe a truth that’s probably common among so many of us: We tend to congregate around two primary areas of the home: food preparation/eating and television.

Time spent in the home

While this diagram only represents a single family, the results of the study suggest that this family is very typical of most of those studied, and the majority of traditional homes.

Take note of the different areas of this home, especially the dining room. The dining room saw extremely little activity from this family. The porch was almost never used. The study found that 68% of the family’s time was largely spent in the kitchen/nook as well as the family room, typically near the television.

The large majority of the time, this family spends their waking hours congregating around areas of food preparation and consumption. The rest, they’re plopped down on the couch watching the boob tube or on the computer.

As J.D. mentioned on Saturday, the study also found that clutter, enabled by such huge homes, fueled stressful emotions for many of the family members — especially mothers. And amazingly, only 25% of garages could be used to store cars. The remaining 75% were jam packed with so much stuff that cars simply couldn’t fit. Cars were relegated to the driveway or street.

Furthermore, families hardly used their yards, devoted money to renovating little-used areas of the home (like master suites) instead of fixing obvious problems, and relied on heating up frozen meals instead of using large and luxurious kitchens to cook.

Of course, not every family will exhibit these behaviors in their homes. Some will use their yards or porches, or dining rooms. However, most families don’t use large areas of their homes — which means they’ve essentially wasted money on space they do not need.

The results of this study reflect my experience perfectly. Years ago, I lived in a 1600-square-foot home and spent 99% of my waking hours in the kitchen and family room. The remaining rooms — like my small office/den and two extra bedrooms — were closed off. One bedroom turned into my hidden cavern for the accumulation of boxes and plastic shopping bags. The other held a spare bed that almost never got used.

Why People Want Big Homes

Why do we want huge homes instead of living smaller? Why do we make the choice to drop additional coinage for space that most of us don’t use?

I believe there are two primary reasons:

  • We link “bigger” with “success”. It’s all too common to feel like our big homes represent our success or status in life. The bigger our home, the more successful we appear to our friends and family. How many times have you heard people at work talking about how many square feet they have? It’s a brag item! New homes today are 1000 square feet larger than they were in the 1970s. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median single-family home built in 2016 was over 2400 square feet.
  • We want room to grow — temporarily.Many of us enjoy entertaining groups of people at our homes. Others want a dining room for big family dinners. But wait, how about that spare bedroom? After all, the three or four times that your in-laws come to visit demands additional sleeping quarters in a dedicated room that probably isn’t used for much the rest of the year.

Let’s talk a little about that last point, since there’s a sort of logic to it. I get why you might sometimes want extra space in your home. But here’s the problem with buying extra space for need temporarily: That additional space is always there. We’re buying additional space in our homes that we pay for 100% of the time but seldom actually use. We like having the space, but what is that space doing to us? Is it worth the cost?

In the video below, two of J.D.’s friends give him a tour of their tiny house. As you can see, it’s perfectly possible to be fulfilled and content — to live the American Dream — in a very small space.

Big Home, Big Headaches

Larger homes and yards not only require large mortgages and tax payments, but also more maintenance. If you aren’t spending your own precious time mowing the lawn or fixing your roof shingles, you’re paying someone else good money to do so. These costs can become cripplingly expensive, especially with super large houses (McMansions).

Larger homes require more security, too. The more space we have, the greater the need to protect it with fencing, cameras and Internet-connected security systems.

Big homes also need to be filled with furniture. Beds, couches, loveseats. Pianos. Pool tables. Most of us don’t let unused rooms sit idly by without anything in them. They need something, so we buy additional stuff to put in there.

Larger homes are also becoming tougher to sell as younger generations look for homes in more unique neighborhoods and, increasingly, in city centers where homes tend to be smaller. And, smaller homes tend to appreciate in value faster and more consistently than larger homes.

In general, the larger the home the bigger the risk. If owners of big homes lose their jobs, their homes don’t suddenly get cheaper. Mortgages are as relentless as they are monotonous, easily wiping away a large majority of our take-home pay.

Here’s the truth: The American Dream shouldn’t compel you to buy a home that you cannot afford or maintain. (Or to drive a car you cannot handle or to watch televisions that are just too big for our walls and pocketbooks.)

More does not automatically equal better. More simply means more.

Downsizing to 200 Square Feet

Naturally, larger families require larger homes. We all have different needs, comfort levels, and desires. The point of this article isn’t to prove that larger spaces are always bad. Such a conclusion is much too simplistic and entirely inaccurate.

Instead, this article is designed to spur thought and self-reflection. Regardless of the space that you call home, are you fully utilizing that space or is it overcome with clutter? Do you feel stressed when cleaning or maintaining your home? Do you use the large majority each and every week?

As the UCLA study found, we tend to overbuy, believing the misguided wisdom of buying “as big of a house as you can afford”. Forget that advice. Instead, buy as much house as you need. Then, feel confident that you aren’t overextending yourself or weakening your financial position through your rent or mortgage.

To conclude, I want to share how I’ve move past the idea that I need a large home.

For those unfamiliar with my story, I’m a 36-year old early retiree who travels the country in a 200-square-foot Airstream with my wife and two rescued dogs. Both my wife and I sold our homes (each around 1,600 square feet), along with the majority of our possessions, and bought an Airstream that we use to travel the country full-time.

Downsizing has been amazing for several reasons:

  • Life is much simpler with fewer possessions.
  • It takes about 10 minutes to vacuum the entire house (well!).
  • We can clean the whole outside of our home in about 30 minutes.
  • We can park this thing virtually anywhere (legally permitted, of course!) and change our scenery at a moment’s notice.
  • Even in a small space, we still have a separate bedroom, bathroom, shower, two sinks, a desk, couch and kitchen with stove, oven and microwave; we also have a refrigerator and freezer, an air conditioner and solar power

The full-time RV life isn’t for everyone, and it’s not my intent to convince you otherwise. Instead, use my story as a testament to the fact that large homes are very much a choice. Few of us need the space we buy. I certainly didn’t need a 1600-square-foot home before I sold it to move into the Airstream. There are many different ways to live.

Don’t let the American Dream take over your life…or your wallet.

J.D.’s footnote: By now, regular readers know how much I agree with Steve’s perspective. My girlfriend and I recently lived in an RV for fifteen months ourselves. The experience taught us that we do not need a large space to live. We believe somewhere around 1000 square feet is perfect for us and our zoo. Last summer, we downsized to 1235 square feet, and even this place has space that goes unused.

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The cluttered lives of middle-class Americans ~ Get Rich Slowly

Long-time readers are familiar with my decade-long war on Stuff. I was raised in a cluttered home. From a young age, I was a collector. (Some might even say a hoarder!) After Kris and I got married, I began to acquire adult-level quantities of Stuff. When we moved to a larger house, I found ways to acquire even more Stuff. I owned thousands of books, thousands of comic books, hundreds of compact discs, and scads of other crap.

Eventually, I’d had enough. A decade ago, I began the s-l-o-w process of de-cluttering.

While I still bring new Stuff into the house — Kim would tell you I bring too much Stuff home — I’m not nearly so acquisitive as I used to be. In fact, for the past decade I’ve purged far more than I’ve acquired. And that process continues, week by week, month by month, year by year.

The Cluttered Lives of the American Middle Class

Turns out, I’m not the only one fighting this battle. Many Americans struggle with clutter. This is one reason for the popularity of the simplicity movement. When I visit my friends who live in tiny houses, they rejoice at the lack of Stuff in their lives. And it’s why books like Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up become popular bestsellers. (That book is great, by the way. Here’s my review from my personal site.)

A while ago, I stumbled on a video that documents the work of a group of anthropologists from UCLA. These researchers visited the homes of 32 typical American families. They wanted to look at how people interacted with their environments, at how they used space. They also wanted to look at how dual-income, middle-class families related to their material possessions. They systematically documented the Stuff people own, where they keep it, and how they use it.

This team produced a book called Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century, which records their findings. They also produced this twenty-minute video that provides an overview of the results:

“Contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per household than any society in global history,” says Jeanne E. Arnold. That’s both shocking and unsurprising all at once.

Her colleague Anthony Graesch notes that our homes reflect this material abundance. “Hyper-consumerism is evident in many spaces,” he says, “like garages, corners of home offices, and even sometimes in the corners of living rooms and bedrooms.”

Graesch continues: “We have lots of Stuff. We have many mechanisms by which we accumulate possessions in our home, but we have few rituals or mechanisms or processes for unloading these objects, for getting rid of them.” All of this stuff causes stress. It carries very real physical and emotional tolls.

One interesting finding? Clutter bothers women more than men. This might be because the responsibility for cleaning the clutter generally falls to women.

The United States has 3.1% of the world’s children but consumes 40% of the world’s toys,” notes Arnold. In households with children — or, in my case, puppies — the toys can take over the home. Children’s toys and objects spill out of their bedrooms into living areas, kitchens, and bathrooms. The push to become consumers, to value Stuff, starts at an early age.

Why do modern kids have so many toys? It may be because there are so many playthings available so cheaply. There’s more Stuff available for kids than there was fifty years ago, and that Stuff costs less. Plus, priorities seem to have shifted. Modern parents see spending on kids as a priority; parents fifty years ago did not.

Food as Clutter

It’s not just kids, of course. Adults have their own brand of clutter.

For example, many families are guilty of stockpiling. They buy food in bulk, then stack their cupboards and fridges and pantries and garages to the gills. Naturally, most of these are “convenience foods”. (Fresh food wouldn’t keep if bought in bulk like this.)

Researcher Elinor Ochs observes, “If you brought someone from Rome or from a town in Sweden, and you showed them the size of the refrigerator in the kitchen, and then walked them to the garage and they saw the size of the refrigerator in the garage, they would be pretty astonished. The refrigerator, then, becomes something to think about culturally. Why do we have these big refrigerators? And what does that say about food in our society?”

Note: This was something that Kim and I thought about a lot on our RV trip across the U.S. During our fifteen months on the road, we had limited space for food storage. There was a small-ish frige in the motorhome and a few cabinets for non-perishables. At home, we tend to buy food for a week (or more) at a time. And we’re guilty of stockpiling some stuff too. (Don’t ask me how much ketchup I have in the cupboard!) On the road, this was fundamentally impossible. We bought only what we needed for the immediate future. This forced us to be better at meal planning, and it made us much more aware of the kinds of foods we were buying.

The easy availability of convenience foods has some interesting effects on how families relate to each other. Longer ago, the household sat down to eat the same thing at the same time. That’s not true anymore. Nowadays, each person tends to eat what they want, when they want.

“Families have bought into the idea that use of these foods will somehow save time,” Graesch says. But researchers have found that families only save about twelve minutes per meal when they use convenience foods. And at what cost?

Cluttered Space

During their research, the UCLA anthropologists looked at how families used the space in their homes. Unsurprisingly (to me), the kitchen tends to be the hub, the command center of the household.

“Everything transpires in kitchens,” Graesch says. “Activities are organized, schedules are co-ordinated, plans are made for the next day, meals are cooked, kids are doing homework in kitchen spaces. It’s very, very intensively used. A lot of the material culture in kitchens speaks to this logistical center in everyday family lives.”

The refrigerator door is often a center for family artifacts. It’s a place for family history and culture and nostalgia. But, says Arnold, “There seems to be a kind of a correlation between how much Stuff is on the refrigerator panel door and how much stuff is in the broader home.”

Bathrooms, too, can become important places to plan and prepare for the day. They’re staging areas where we get ready to go out into the world.

With all of the chaos in other parts of the home, many parents work hard to make the master bedroom a sort of quiet retreat, a space isolated from the rest of the house. People value their master bedrooms so much, in fact, that they’ll spend to remodel them into the oasis they desire instead of funneling their funds to remove actual bottlenecks (like bathrooms) or to optimize the spaces where the family spends most of its time.

In some ways, the master bedroom has become a symbolic space. It’s a place of refuge.

The Bottom Line

Is clutter a uniquely American problem? I don’t know. I doubt it. But I also suspect that because of our sheer material abundance, more of us struggle with clutter than folks in other countries. (I’d love to hear anecdotes or see stats on this subject, actually. Anyone have those?)

However, I do know that it this is another area where we can take charge of our lives. As I purge Stuff from my life, I gain a greater sense of satisfaction. I feel like I’m in more control of my environment — and myself.

Do you struggle with clutter? Is your home packed to the gills with Stuff? What steps have you taken to get rid of some of this crap? Or have you? (Maybe it doesn’t bother you?)

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7 Moneymaking Apps to Turn Your Phone into a Passive Income Machine

The average American adult spends about 86 hours a month on their smartphone.  What could you do with 86 extra hours a month? Train for an Ultramarathon? Learn a new language? Make money?

Instead of giving up your smartphone addiction. (Who wants to do that anyway?) Why not turn your addiction into a moneymaking machine? Did you know that apps exist in the world that will make you either passive or nearly passive income? Here are the ten apps I found that are more than likely going to make you some decent pocket change.

1. Slidejoy

We all love ads, right? Well, when we’re making money off them, of course. Otherwise, they might just be a mild annoyance at the corner of your screen.

If you’re an affiliate marketer, you’re already familiar with making money from ads. But what if you could be advertised to and make money at the same time?

This is exactly how Slidejoy works. You give Slidejoy permission to put ads on your lock screen and you make money each time you unlock your screen and see an ad. It’s the easiest way to make money from your smartphone even if you prefer your dog’s face to Gas X ads.

There is one tricky caveat. The app does charge a 20% fee to transfer the funds to your bank account. But the money was pretty much free anyway so…

2. Ibotta

Are you a shopaholic? Do you shop at Walmart? You could be earning cash back with your cell phone each time you make a purchase from certain retailers.

Ibotta works in two ways. If the company has a loyalty program, you might be able to link that program to the Ibotta app directly.  You’ll automatically earn cash back or gift cards if you can use this option. And it’s the most hands-off option.

If there is no loyalty program, no sweat. Just submit the receipt via Ibotta’s camera feature. Your cashback will be in your Ibotta account within 48 hours.

3. Toluna

Survey apps are typically complete rubbish. You spend a bunch of time for very little payout ($1 gift cards, anyone?). And if you have the time to take long surveys, you have the time to start a blog or a business.

Toluna may steal your time with surveys, but if you’re bored and in line at your local Starbucks, you can make actual cash with Toluna. That’s right, instead of the typical crappy gift cards, Toluna pays your PayPal directly.

The app itself provides a webinar to help you get the most money. And if you are the creative type, you can make surveys for other people to take and make money that way.

4. Foap

If you already take lots of photos for Instagram, then you’ll love Foap. Unlike most photo and stock photo sites, Foap accepts photos directly from your smartphone. So, if you take stellar photos, it’s time to download Foap.


Because Foap will sell your photos for you. You can make $5 when someone or a brand purchases your photo. And you can participate in missions and make $100 or more.

If you already take the photos, why not toss them on Foap? Even if you sell one photo, you’ve made some cash.

5. Field Agent

It’s kind of like a scavenger hunt, but you make money doing it. If you’re the type that likes to go hunting for deals or just have a few minutes to stop off at a store on your way home, you’ll love this app.

Field Agent pays you to verify prices at stores or just gather information for them. Often, you’ll check in-store displays, complete customer surveys, or take a photo of a specific product on the shelf. You’ll peruse a list of jobs, select one, and get to it.

You’ll get paid anything from $3 to $12. But you do have to fill out a sign-up questionnaire before you can select jobs. But the process is fairly simple.

6. Sweatcoin

Unfortunately, Sweatcoin is only on the iPhone or I’d probably have a lot of free gear by now. You can opt for cash on PayPal through Sweatcoin, but if you’re a runner, you’re gonna go for the gear, right?

The app uses your phone’s accelerometers and GPS location and converts steps to currency. 1,000 steps equals 0.95 Sweatcoins.

10,000 steps a day keeps the doctor away. At least that’s the going number right now. But if you took your 10k steps a day, you’d earn almost 10 Sweatcoins a day. And in just 7 to 10 days, you could have a new pair of Vivobarefoot shoes.

But it would take about 2,000 days to get an iPhone 8. So, maybe you won’t make a ton, but you’ll be skinnier for trying.

7. Fluid Market

This app requires a few resources before you can make money from it. But if you work from home like I do, you might actually be able to make some money from your truck or car.

Fluid Market is a sharing economy app. You can rent out your vehicle through the app by the hour, day or week. Don’t worry, the app includes some insurance in case someone using the vehicle trashes it.

If you don’t have a vehicle laying about, you can rent out other things such as tools, boats, bicycles, and really, well, anything. If you’re afraid you can’t be around when someone comes to pick up the vehicle, you can install a lockbox on your truck to hold the keys.

Make it Happen

Your phone is just sucking money right out of your pocketbook. It’s time to recoup that money and even make a profit. Any of these apps are almost guaranteed to make you some money.

If you’ve made money using your smartphone, let me know down in the comments. I’m always looking for more ways to make money.


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How to get started with real estate investing ~ Get Rich Slowly

Today’s article is from Chad Carson, who writes about real estate investing (and other money matters) at Coach Carson. I’ve always been intrigued by real estate investing but overwhelmed by how much info available. I asked Chad if he’d be willing to write an article that would help me (and other GRS readers) understand the basics of real estate investing. This is the result.

I got started in real estate investing right after college. Because a young adult can basically sleep in a car if he has to (my 1998 Toyota Camry with cloth seats was comfortable), I had little to lose by launching a business. Unfortunately, as a Biology major, I also knew very little about business or real estate. But I did know how to hustle and to learn. That helped.

Slowly, I learned to find good deals and to resell them for a small markup of profit (a.k.a. wholesaling). I also learned to buy, fix, and flip houses for a bigger profit (a.k.a. retailing). After a few years, my business partner and I began keeping some rental properties because we knew that was the path to generating regular, passive income.

While my early business might sound like an exciting HGTV house-flipping show, it’s not for everyone. I experienced radical ups and downs of cash flow, and there were many unpredictable outcomes. I learned a lot being a full-time investor, but there are actually easier ways to get started.

Most investors I know started with a full-time job. They became valuable at their job, earned good money, lived frugally, and started boosting their saving rate. With their extra savings, they began buying rental properties on the side.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t begin as a real estate entrepreneur like I did — you’ll know if you’re called to make that leap — but if you currently have a non-real estate job and you’re saving money, you’re already going down the easiest path.

The next step is to learn how to invest that money profitably and safely. I personally think real estate investing is one of the best ways to do that. I’ll show you why that’s the case in the next section.

How to get started with real estate investing

Why Real Estate Investing? Because It’s Ideal!

I’ve yet to find a better way to describe the benefits of real estate than this. All you need to remember is the acronym I.D.E.A.L:

  • Income. The biggest benefit of real estate is rental income. Even the worst rentals I find produce more income than a portfolio of other assets like stocks or bonds. For example, I often see unleveraged (no debt) returns of 5-10% from rental income. And with reasonable leverage, it’s possible to see these returns jump to 10-15% or higher. The dividend rate of the S&P 500, on the other hand, is only 1.99% as of 1/24/17. And the yield on a broad basket of US bonds as of the same date was only 2.41%.
  • Depreciation. Our government requires rental owners to spread out the cost of an asset over multiple years (27.5 years for residential real estate). This produces something called a yearly depreciation expense that can “shelter” or protect your income from taxes and reduce your tax bill. (For more about this, check my article The Incredible Tax Benefits of Real Estate Investing over at Mad Fientist.)
  • Equity. If you borrow money to buy a rental property, your tenant basically pays off your mortgage for you with their monthly rent. Trust me: Having somebody else pay your mortgage is a beautiful thing! Like a forced savings account, your equity in the property gets bigger and bigger over time.
  • Appreciation. Over the long run, real estate has gone up in value about the same rate as inflation, roughly three to four percent a year. Combined with the three benefits above, appreciation can produce a very solid long-term return. But this passive style of inflation is not the whole story. Active appreciation is even more profitable. You get active appreciation when you force the value higher by doing something to the property, like with a house remodel or changing the zoning.
  • Leverage. Debt leverage is readily available to buy real estate. This means your $100,000 of savings can buy five properties at $20,000 down instead of just one property for $100,000. Interest on this debt is deductible, so you also save on your taxes. (While this can be helpful, keep in mind that leverage also magnifies your losses if things go bad.)

These IDEAL benefits are core reasons to invest in real estate. But as a Get Rich Slowly reader, I think you’ll appreciate another core real estate investing benefit: control!

Controlling Your Financial Destiny

How to get started with real estate investingI love J.D.’s message here at Get Rich Slowly: You are the boss of you! You can apply this lesson to so many parts of life, but it especially applies to your finances. Real estate investing fits very well with the GRS philosophy. Why? Because real estate gives you much more control than other more traditional investments.

I’m also a fan of low-cost index fund investing, for example, but do you have an impact on the returns of your stock portfolio? Not really. The 3500+ managers of the companies owned by the VTI total stock market index fund do impact your returns, but not you personally. You simply control when you buy, how much you buy, and when you sell.

But with a rental duplex, for example, your decisions directly affect its profitability (for better or worse!).

  • You can buy in certain neighborhoods and ignore others.
  • You can negotiate with your bank, with the seller, and with your vendors to get better prices.
  • You can choose the property manager and the types of tenants who will ultimately produce the returns for your investment.

If this prospect of control excites you, then keep reading. But if your palms are clammy at the idea of hands-on investments, just focus on a different vehicle. That’s okay. There are options for everyone in this big investing universe!

To make things manageable, we’re going to break things down a little. As a baby, you learned to walk by taking tiny steps. You also fell down a lot, but with a diaper four inches from the ground, what’s the harm?!

Well, you’re no longer a baby. Financially you do have a lot to lose. Your family, your hard-earned savings, your plans for financial independence, and your pride would all suffer if you made bad investments.

I get that. And that’s why we still need to take safe, baby steps. There’ll be plenty of time to run and grow faster once you’re more confident. But in the beginning, just strive to move forward steadily.

The seven baby steps below provide a simple path to follow. I’ve taken each of these steps personally. You can use them as a blueprint to help you move forward with your own real estate investments.

Step 1: Create Financial Goals

Real estate is simply a financial vehicle. Before you begin to buy real estate, you have to have a clear picture financially where the vehicle will take you.

If you haven’t done it already, read J.D.’s Financial Independence in Plain English. You’ll learn that a solid financial independence goal is to achieve a net worth equal to your current annual expenses multiplied by 25. In other words, if you spend about $50,000 per year, your goal should be to achieve a net worth of around $1,250,000. With this level of wealth, you could likely withdraw 4% of your net worth each year without completely depleting your money.

While these assumptions are typically made for traditional portfolios of stocks and bonds, real estate works much the same. In fact, it’s much simpler.

Let’s say once again you spend about $50,000 per year. And let’s assume you can produce a cash-on-cash return of 6% with your real estate investments. (This return — or better — is achievable once you get going.) This would mean you need a net worth of $833,000 ($50,000 ÷ .06) to achieve financial independence. (For more details, check out my article How Many Rental Properties Do You Need to Retire.)

In case you didn’t notice, real estate’s income producing ability allows you to become financially independent with a much smaller net worth than alternative investments. In other words, you get to financial independence sooner!

Just another benefit of real estate investing! Now let’s pick a real estate investing strategy and niche.

Wealth Stages and Strategies

Step 2: Focus on a Real Estate Investing Strategy and Niche

Real estate isn’t a single method of investing. I’ve found at least 35 different niches you could specialize in, and you could apply a variety of strategies to each of those niches.

A niche is just a small segment of the larger real estate market. This could be a particular neighborhood, a certain kind of property (single family, duplex, commercial building), or a certain customer (like vacation rental tenants).

A strategy is a method of making money. In very basic terms, real estate strategies fall under two big umbrellas:

  • Flipping properties (buying and quickly selling).
  • Holding for rental income and growth.

Within each of these larger strategies, you’ll find a number of sub-strategies. I’ll give you my favorites below.

Many brand-new investors get overwhelmed because there are so many choices. This leads to analysis paralysis or ineffectiveness as they jump from one niche to another.

To help you avoid this, I’ll recommend a few of my favorite beginner combinations of strategies and niches within real estate investing.

The Live-In House Flip

My friends and bloggers at 1500 Days to Freedom built a large part of their wealth ($1.6 million +) using a simple real estate method. It’s called the Live-in House Flip. [J.D.’s note: I too am a fan of the folks at 1500 Days. They’re funny and informative.]

Just like it sounds, this strategy involves flipping a house. But unlike most flips, you live in the house for at least two years.

Why live in the house? Because this allows you to sell the house tax-free. This is one of the most profitable sections of the U.S. tax code! (In the U.S., when you sell your primary residence, up to $250,000 of capital gains for an individual — or $500,000 for a couple — can be excluded from your income.)

No, it’s not always fun to live with construction dust. But what if you could use this strategy for a short period of your life, like 6-10 years? You could own your home free and clear or jumpstart your wealth building. And then you could move on with the rest of your life.

House Hacking

I love house hacking!

One of my first residences — I’ve had a lot! — was a four-plex. I lived in one unit and rented out the other three units. My mortgage payment including taxes and insurance was $1100 per month. My rent from the other three units was $1200. I was basically living for free!

If you don’t want to live in a small multi-unit building, you could also rent out a basement or garage apartment. I have a friend who rents his basement part-time using AirBnB and pays his entire home’s mortgage.

House hacking is also a great way to transition into non-owner occupied rental properties.

While living in the property, you can obtain an owner occupied mortgage. These mortgages have the best rates and terms, and they are the easiest to get. Then after living in the building for a couple of years, you can decide to move on to a new residence. But the old property can be kept as a long-term rental that cash flows well.

If you’re looking for a low cost of housing and your first rental property, it’s hard to beat this method.

Rental Debt Snowball

You’re probably familiar with the debt snowball, which is a great way to repay your debts one-by-one. The speed of your debt payoff snowballs because the cash flow gets bigger and bigger as each debt gets paid. This cash flow is then used to pay off the next debt even faster.

You can also do a debt snowball with rental properties. It’s one of the most predictable, satisfying ways to achieve financial independence with real estate investing.

Here’s how it works in brief:

  1. Buy the number of rental properties you need to achieve financial independence. (Remember, we covered that calculation in step one above.)
  2. Use the excess cash flow from all rentals (and any extra savings) to pay off one mortgage at a time.
  3. Repeat the process for each mortgage until you own all of the homes free and clear.
  4. Enjoy the income and equity from your free-and-clear properties to do what matters in your life.

Using this method, it’s possible to own your properties free and clear of debt in under thirteen years. (I wrote a detailed rental snowball example with numbers in case you’re interested.)

Now that you understand the big picture, let’s look at what makes a good real estate deal.

Step 3: Understand the Basics of Good Real Estate Deals

Good real estate deals are one part quantitative analysis (i.e. the numbers) and one part qualitative analysis (i.e. intangibles that make properties desirable). To buy good real estate deals that will make a profit and help you achieve financial independence, you need to understand both.

Quantitative Analysis of Real Estate

I can summarize financial analysis for rental properties with five key metrics:

  • Net Operating Income. Your net operating income (NOI) is the rent left over after paying all of your property expenses, including taxes, insurance, property management, maintenance and reserves for vacancy and future capital expenses (roofs, HVAC systems, etc). Importantly, this metric does not include any mortgage expenses.
  • Cap Rate. You know how folks use the price-to-earnings ratio (or P/E ratio) to evaluate stock prices? Well, the cap rate is a similar tool for evaluating home prices. The cap rate — which is short for capitalization rate — describes the relationship between the net operating income (or NOI) and the price of the real estate. Imagine, for example, a rental that produces $10,000 per year in NOI and can be purchased for $100,000. This hypothetical property would have a 10% cap rate. This metric ignores any debt used to buy the property and focuses only on the income and price. So, the formula is this: Cap Rate = NOI/Price.
  • Net Income After Taxes. Net income after taxes is derived from a formula that builds upon the NOI. The key difference is that here you also deduct mortgage payments (if any) and tax liabilities. This is the money you’ll actually get to keep in your bank account, which I think we can all agree is a very important thing!
  • Cash-on-Cash Return (ConC). Like a cap rate, your cash-on-cash return describes your return on investment. But the ConC rate usually assumes you have leverage and describes the cash return on your down payment. Imagine you purchase a property with a $20,000 down payment, for instance. If this property produces a $2000 yearly net income after taxes, then you’d be earning a 10% cash-on-cash return. The formula is this: Cash-on-Cash Return = Net Income After Taxes/Cash Invested.
  • Price Discount. The final metric is straight-forward. How far below the full price did you pay? Unlike stocks, real estate is an illiquid market. This means there are opportunities — if you work hard — to buy a place anywhere from 10% to 30% (or more) below full value.

There are definitely many other ways to financially analyze a real estate deal. But if you understand these five core metrics, you’ll have the basics tools you need to buy a good deal.

Qualitative Analysis of Real Estate

Real estate is best viewed as a product. A lot of times, investors get caught up in the numbers, as if real estate is only a numbers game. But it’s not. In real life, people make emotional decisions to buy or rent. Qualitative analysis is all about understanding the factors that make any particular property more or less desirable.

Luckily, you’ve lived in real estate! So, when you buy residential real estate investments, you already understand some of the important factors that matter the most to renters and buyers.

But to jog your memory, here is a list of things to consider that affect the desirability of a property:

  • Safety
  • Walkability or accessibility of public transit (especially in urban areas)
  • Good school districts (especially in suburban areas)
  • Population growth in the region – increasing (good) or decreasing (bad)
  • Job and wage growth in the region – increasing (good) or decreasing (bad)
  • Low-traffic streets
  • Outdoor living features (yard, patios, gardens, etc)
  • Attractive interior finishes (this varies from market to market, but it’s important)
  • Storage space (garages, storage lockers, etc)
  • Quality construction and low maintenance materials (floors, exterior surfaces, etc)
  • Interior layout (avoid weird wall locations, walking through bedrooms to get to bedrooms, etc)
  • Avoid obnoxious neighbors, dogs, smells, large power lines, noises – you can’t control these things.
  • Avoid steep lots or properties below the grade of the road. Water flowing towards your foundation is a difficult problem.

Real estate is very local. So, my list may not always apply to your market. But the main point is to study and learn the important factors in the area where you want to invest. You can do this best by becoming a renter or buyer yourself. Shop around. And then try to buy properties that meet both your quantitative and qualitative criteria.

Step 4: Build a Team

Real estate is a team sport. If you like to manage all of your investments from a computer and never talk to people, this may be negative. But you don’t have to be an extrovert or an amazing communicator to be the leader of your team. You just need to have a clear idea of what you want and then pay good people to help you.

Here’s a list of some of the key team members you’ll need to buy, finance, rent, and sell real estate investments:

  • Real estate agent (for purchases and sales)
  • Real estate attorney (for contracts, LLC creation, and for closings in some states)
  • Certified Public Accountant (C.P.A.)
  • Mortgage lender
  • Personal banker (for your business bank accounts and lines of credit)
  • Property manager (unless you are self-managing)
  • Property inspector (during purchase due diligence)
  • Repair contractors
    • HVAC technician
    • Plumber
    • Electrician
    • Pest control
    • Lawn care
    • Handyman
  • Referral sources for new deals
  • Networking and mentorship with other local investors

That might seem like a large list, but don’t let it intimidate you. You don’t have to build this team overnight. And you can share a lot of the team members with other investors as you network at local REIA groups or online at places like the Bigger Pockets forums.

Step 5: Create a Financing Plan

Real estate is closely tied to financing. Even in inexpensive markets, the price of an investment can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So, unless you already have a big pile of cash to invest, you’ll need to create a financing plan — and this needs to be done before you go out and start shopping for investment properties.

Here are a few things to figure out with your personal financing plan:

  • The source (mortgage lender, local bank, private loan, line of credit)
  • The terms:
    • interest rate
    • upfront costs (fees, points, closing costs, etc)
    • the length of the loan
    • fully amortizing or an early balloon payment.
    • down payment requirement
  • Loan amount available

As a general rule, I like my financing to have a low rate of interest, long length (30 years), and no balloons. When I started, I got most of my financing from non-bank, creative sources like private money, self-directed IRA loans, and seller-financing. (I shared my five favorite non-bank financing sources in an article at Bigger Pockets.) But over time I’ve used all sorts of financing, including traditional mortgage loans and commercial financing.

You’ll need to match your financing to your strengths. If you have great credit, solid W-2 income, and a down payment, then traditional financing may be the best route in the beginning. The rates are typically low and the terms are very attractive. But if you’re self-employed, newly employed, or any form of entrepreneur (like I was), then you may also want to look at alternative financing sources like I did.

As I’ll explain in the next section, it also won’t hurt to have multiple sources of money. Traditional financing has great terms but it can be very slow to close. Alternative financing may have less attractive terms but give you quicker access to cash for good deals.

Step 6: Create a Plan to Find Deals

The question I get most often is, “How do I find good real estate deals?” Especially in hotter markets, it seems like all of the good deals get snatched up quickly.

This was the skill that I learned at the very beginning of my real estate career. I didn’t know much else, but I recognized that finding good deals was like a bottleneck for all of the other parts of the business. Here are some of the key things I learned:

  • Recognize good deals. Begin by understanding what a good deal looks like. (See step three in this article.) You won’t find good deals if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
  • Prepare your financing (or cash). Get your financing prepared before you hunt for deals (step five above). Even better, if you have access to a source of liquid funds instead of just a traditional loan, you’ll improve your chances of buying good deals because you can move faster. This might be a line of credit, cash in the bank, a private loan, or a hard money loan. You can refinance with permanent financing later.
  • Build a referral network. You want everyone you know to be looking for deals. You only have two eyes and 24 hours in a day. But if twenty people you know are looking for signs of good deals, you’re much more likely to stumble upon them. Begin by printing and passing business cards telling people what you do and what you’re looking for. If you’re hardcore like I was, you might even put signs on your car! I bought one house per year for many years from this one source alone.
  • Build market systems. Your time is limited. You need to build systems to leverage marketing, such as direct mail, websites, Realtor MLS searches, and more. (You can check out my podcast interview on BiggerPockets for seven ways to find incredible real estate deals. I talk about direct mail and other favorite ways to generate leads.)
  • Hustle. Nothing replaces your personal commitment and desire to hustle. This is the great equalizer. When I started, I knew very little. Other investors had financial and knowledge advantages over me. But I was proud that few people could out-hustle me. If you want to find good deals, you’ll need a similar commitment.

Keep in mind that finding deals is a lot like a treasure hunt. You have to turn over many, many stones before you find a gem. If you’re impatient and want quick results after looking at five properties, you’re not likely to succeed early on. When I was a beginner, I was told I’d need to look at 100 properties before I’d find a deal. This was like paying my dues. I still think it’s good advice today.

There is much more to learn in this area of real estate. But these tips should help you get started.

Step 7: Take Massive Action

“In life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know.”

Anthony Robbins, Awaken The Giant Within

So far in this article, I’ve shared a lot of knowledge. We’ve gone from the big picture and theory of real estate down to the nitty-gritty of deal analysis and finding good properties to buy. But this final step is less about what you know and more about what you do. Ultimately, success in real estate investing — or anything else — comes down to personal commitment, organization, and self-discipline.

I often tell people that starting anything new, including real estate, is a game of momentum. It’s like you’re pushing a huge boulder down a hill. That boulder won’t budge without a lot of initial effort. But once you take massive action to get it moving, the rock will roll from its own momentum.

The key questions for you then are:

  • Are you really committed to real estate investing? If it’s just whim, I’d recommend not wasting your effort. It’ll likely just lead to frustration for you and others.
  • Are you organized with your projects and your time? I’m sure you have job, family, and other commitments already. Can you carve out 10-20 hours per week early on to push the boulder downhill, to build momentum? If not, perhaps you should wait until a time when you can.
  • Are you willing to stick to this? Do you have enough self-discipline to keep going when it’s less fun, when the results don’t come easily, and when you’re tired? You’ll hit a wall, just like everyone else before you. What will you do when the wall comes?

The good news is that taking massive action can be a lot of fun! If you’ve made it this far (thank you for sticking with me!), you’ve proven you’re interested in real estate investing. Make a game out of learning and starting this new venture. Don’t take yourself too seriously when things go wrong. And celebrate when things go well.

In the end, what I love about real estate and all of personal finance is the personal growth you experience while you also build wealth. It’s a fun combination!

Carson family

How Will You Get Started in Real Estate Investing?

Thank you for learning how to get started in real estate investing with me. I’ve shared my real estate story, the I.D.E.A.L. benefits of real estate, and seven baby steps to get started.

Now it’s your turn. I hope this information will inspire and equip you to get started with your own investments.

If you have any questions or need clarification on something, please feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

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Why PayPal bought a European start-up with IPO plans for $2.2 billion

Financial technology titan PayPal made its biggest ever acquisition on Thursday.

The firm bought Stockholm, Sweden-based payments start-up iZettle for $2.2 billion. That’s double the valuation it was reported to be looking to fetch with a listing on the Nasdaq in Stockholm later this year.

What is iZettle?

IZettle is a rival to Square, the U.S. fintech firm led by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, but only competes directly with the $21 billion company in the U.K.

The company makes small, wireless chip readers along with a number of other payment processing products. It recently launched a new product that lets small businesses build their own online stores.

The acquisition means that iZettle will no longer be seeking a listing of its own, something it “spent roughly a year” trying to achieve, according to Jacob de Geer, the firm’s chief executive.

“I think it’s important to clarify that since we started the company in 2010 we’ve been doing a lot of work with PayPal and the team at various capacities in terms of cooperation and partnerships,” De Geer said in a phone interview with CNBC on Friday.

“We’ve been struggling all along to get to the vision we’re aiming for in terms of helping small businesses and competing with the giants, and PayPal has in the area of 20 million merchants whereas iZettle has 500,000,” he added.

The company has so far failed to make a profit, but has said it wants to achieve positive consolidated earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization by 2020. De Geer said at the time of iZettle’s IPO announcement that it would look to draw in some slightly larger merchants.

Why did PayPal buy iZettle?

For PayPal’s Chief Operating Officer Bill Ready, the move is about increasing its payments presence among physical retailers.

“You do not want to give Jeff Bezos a seven-year head start.”
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“This phenomenon of in-store payments via mobile for small businesses, it’s a global phenomenon and there have been many players in the space,” Ready told CNBC. “Most of them though have been constrained to one or only a few countries.”

IZettle is currently present in 12 countries in Europe and Latin America, while PayPal operates in more than 200.

Ready said that, following the deal, PayPal would look to expand iZettle’s international presence further. “What I think is quite distinctive about this team is their ability to go serve small businesses on a multinational basis,” he said.

PayPal, a company worth almost $94 billion, is used by major retailers around the world, including Walmart and Best Buy. IZettle’s focus, on the other hand, is more on small-to-medium-sized firms.

E-commerce giant eBay dealt PayPal a blow earlier this year when it decided it would drop PayPal as its primary payments provider. The online shopping site chose a European start-up of its own, Adyen, to replace PayPal. Adyen is also reportedly seeking to list its shares.

PayPal’s Ready said that the investment in iZettle would give PayPal more of a “technical” presence in Europe.

“Europe contains many of our most important markets, we have huge presence in Europe already from a commercial perspective,” he said. “But one of the things that we think is fantastic is that his is going to create a European center of excellence for us on a technical perspective.”

He added: “We’ll now have an amazing team of engineers and product development and builders here in Stockholm to increase our presence in Europe from a technical perspective and help us build out many more capabilities.”

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The Modern Wealth Index ~ Get Rich Slowly

Charles Schwab has released its 2018 Modern Wealth Index, a survey of the saving and investing habits of 1000 Americans. Here’s how the company describes its methodology:

The Modern Wealth Index…is based on Schwab’s Investing Principles and composed of over 50 financial behaviors and attitudes. Each behavior or attitude is assigned a varying amount of points depending on its importance, out of a total of 100 possible points…Quotas were set so that the sample is as demographically representative as possible.

This survey divides respondents into two categories: those with a written financial plan and those without a written financial plan. About 25% of people are “Planners”; the rest are “Non-Planners”.

Unsurprisingly, the survey found that Planners are more likely to be in control of their finances. For instance, 75% of Planners pay their bill and still manage to save each month. Only 33% of Non-Planners are able to do this. Almost two-thirds of Planners have an emergency fund; less than one-quarter of Non-Planners have set money aside for a rainy day.

And the higher a person’s score in Schwab’s Modern Wealth Index, the more likely they are to have a written plan!

If having a written financial plan is so strongly correlated with desirable monetary outcomes, then why don’t more people do it? For most folks, it’s because they don’t think they have enough money to warrant one.

Roadblocks to financial planning

Personally, I’ve never had a written financial plan, although I do see their value. If I were to start again as an adult today, I’d probably create one.

I thought that the most interesting part of the Schwab survey was how participants viewed wealth. One question asked participants about their personal definition of wealth. What is wealth? Two of the top three answers weren’t about money at all:

What does wealth mean to you?

Related to yesterday’s article about the relationship between time, money, and happiness, Americans say the things that make them feel wealthiest in their day-to-day lives are having personal free time and spending time with family. (When asked to focus on the numbers, respondents said they needed $1.4 million on average to be “comfortable”, or $2.4 million to really be wealthy.)

Want to see where you fit on Schwab’s Modern Wealth Index? You can take a 16-question quiz at their website. But note that some questions aren’t really applicable to folks who have already retired or achieved Financial Independence. Also note that you’ll have to enter your contact info in order to actually see your results. (I took the quiz, but didn’t see my results because I hate giving out personal info.)

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Five Signs You Should Quit Your Job and Live Your Dreams

“Just do it. Don’t let your dreams be dreams.” Whatever Shia Labeouf intended by his 30-minute performance art, these two phrases are the most oft memed and gifed. He screams “JUST DO IT!” and softly speaks the next phrase.

It’s jarring and at the same time uplifting. Dreamers get a pedestal in our society only if they don’t keep their dreams to themselves. A dream ceases to be a dream once it becomes reality.

Are you converting your dreams to reality or are you biding your time? Would you rather be Mr. Anderson in a cubicle or Neo following the white rabbit? And how do you know the difference between the two?

Today I’m going to free your mind. By the time you finish this article, you will know whether you should continue in your current job or quit and make the dream a reality.

1. You’re Bored to Death and You Dread Going to Work

I’ve been here. You have nightmares about work. You wake up dreading work, you walk into work dreading work, and you continue to dread work as you attempt to work.

There is nothing exciting or challenging about your day. And you’re not alone. 20% of Americans find their workplace hostile.

It’s time to figure out what is making your either dread work or find it droll. If it’s something you can’t change like your boss or the kind of work, then it’s time to quit.

If it’s a lack of skills, a lack of education or training, it’s time to own up and make a change. You may still choose to quit, but you will still need to find a skill set to acquire and further enhance your career.

This skill set could be as simple as a short course in online marketing or a filmmaking course. But before you make the jump, know you have the skills to land.

2. You’ve Hit the Advancement Ceiling and You’re Still Not the Boss

One awesome thing about going freelance is that you’re the boss. You make your own schedule, you set your own goals. Sure, you need other people so you can make money, but they aren’t the boss of your company.

In a job, you almost always have someone else telling you what to do. But the further you climb up the corporate ladder, the fewer people there are above you.

In some companies, you can’t advance far. In fact, some bosses put a cap on upward mobility because they fear for the safety of their own position. If you’re in a company like this, it’s time to quit your job.

When you’re a freelancer or a business owner, you can always advance. You add value to your position when you take on new skills or new products and services. And you almost never have someone above you telling you what to do or how to do it.

If you’re self-motivated to continue to grow and learn on your own and you see no opportunity for advancement, then it might be time to strike out on your own.

3. You Could Make the Same or More in Less Time Pursuing Your Dream

Some people are willing to accept less pay to pursue their dreams. And you might have to max out your credit or find a poor credit credit card to live off for a while before you become profitable. But some people’s dreams can almost immediately replace a job.

Imagine this: You’re doing soul-sucking, back-breaking work at a factory. You work overtime every week and struggle to make ends meet.

A friend tells you about this online writing job that pays more per hour than your factory job. You take the position and work from home. You might still be struggling to make ends meet, but you’re no longer working overtime to do it and you’re not doing soul-sucking, back-breaking work.

Your quality of life suddenly went up 1,000% and now you have the time to ad skills, quality, and value to your own work. Soon you might find even more work that pays better per hour and makes even more money.

4. You Know More Than Your Boss About the Company and You Already Do Your Boss’ Work

Every boss/employee relationship should be based on trust. But if you can’t trust the person above you to do their job right, then you’ll end up doing their job for them. Doing both your job and your boss’ job can put you in a state of constant stress and anxiety.

And what’s more, if your boss is the CEO of the company, then you could be CEO of the company. Why not step out and start your own business?

You’ve already acquired the skills of leadership. And while you might have a “non-compete” you can always take your work online or to another location.

I’m not saying supplant your boss or create competition for your boss. I’m saying, become your own boss. Take what you now know and apply it to your dreams.

5. You’re Tired of Not Being in Control

One sure sign you have the entrepreneurial spirit is the fact you hate having a boss. If you’ve always wanted to steer the ship in your own direction, then maybe it’s time to “just do it.”

Imagine: no managers, no regulations, no rules about what you can and can’t do at work. You can work wherever and whenever you want.

Just Do It! Mr. Anderson

You’ve checked the list. You’ve said yes to every bullet point. It’s time to get off your desk chair, walk down to the boss’ office and tell them the truth.

You’re done. There’s no turning back. It might be scary, but the things in life that are most worth doing are sometimes the scariest.

If you’re looking for more entrepreneurial advice, check out Shoemoney’s Shoeintology.

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