Great Financial Podcasts

What are you doing when driving home? What are you doing while jogging? What are you doing while cooking dinner?! Trying listening to podcasts! They are a great way to intake news and learn about new topics. I have always had difficulty focusing enough to read a book. Digesting information through audio is was easy for people like me and podcasts has been a part of my life for the past 4 years. About a year ago when I started bettering my financial IQ, I started to look into financial podcasts to help me gain momentum on getting out of debt.

Stacking Benjamins

This is the show that deepened my interest in personal finance. While you wont learn anything, this show helped me to understand the importance money has in our lives. From 529s to IRAs to different techniques for budgeting (or not budgeting), this show will get you pointed in the right direction so you will come out the other side in the best financial situation possible.

Afford Anything

Paula Pant is a real estate enthusiast. I was first introduced to her by the Friday Round-table segments on the Stacking Benjamins show. Her insights on real estate are expressed in a way that is very easy to understand for beginners and that is why I think this show is great. The podcast is supplemented by the Afford Anything blog where there is a ton of super valuable information. One of her more recent posts has 5 months of rental income with the expenses broken out. It was a really good example on beginning to understand real estate investing and what you can realistically expect.

Money Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for a Richer Life

The Money Girl podcast helps you find topics you didn’t know that you need to know. Each show is very short and introduces you to a new financial concept with valuable resources in the show notes.

 

BiggerPockets

Real estate focused. Bigger Pockets give you in-depth interviews with brilliant minds behind all forms of real estate investing. All levels of investors are represented from the heavy hitters like Grant Cardone to new young investors who have a unique twist with their strategy. This show is responsible for not only building my interest in this discipline of investing, but also it helped me build my real estate vocabulary and understanding. Their website features extremely valuable information from their blog and forum interactions.

Discovering the Costs of Opportunity

What is an ‘Opportunity Cost’

Opportunity cost refers to a benefit that a person could have received, but gave up, to take another course of action. Stated differently, an opportunity cost represents an alternative given up when a decision is made. This cost is, therefore, most relevant for two mutually exclusive events. In investing, it is the difference in return between a chosen investment and one that is necessarily passed up. –Investopedia.com

My near future has a LOT of big changes coming. My student loans will be paid off soon. I will be moving out of my parent’s house shortly after. The beginning of my life with my girlfriend is about to start. While the future looks bright the past 4 years still haunt me. There is an obligation I feel to propel my financial situation forward to make up for that lost time. This how I got into studying investing and personal finance about ten months ago. When it comes to moving out, my goal of increasing my net worth will still be my focus. So where will my $25,000 best serve me? Any decision has its on opportunity costs associated with it. Using it as a down payment on a house gets me into a location where I could stay living and start building equity eventually. On the other hand, using it to make my first income producing investment could off set any net worth gains that I would be giving up.

What are coming opportunities?

In the future I want to be living in a house and looking at buying my first investment property. I get to pick one: Down payment on a house and then save OR down payment on a rental property to live in temporarily.

Down Payment for a house

The quality of house I can get for $1300 a month is much greater than what is rent-able in this area. Even at that rate, I should be able to save monthly for future investments. The sacrifice for this option is having a large amount of cash tied up in the loan and recouping that amount of capital will take longer than the initial time.

Down Payment for a rental property

With a 3-4 plex rental unit being the goal and using the same dollar amount down, I could do a high leverage debt on the property to get a good B-Class. The sacrifice for this option is having to live in the property for a year to get a lower rate on the loan and having to live directly next to tenants.

Is the house you live in an asset or liability?

Most people who do not read about personal finance regularly, might not be aware of this conversation. None of the millionaires I follow on YouTube and social media own their house; they are all leased. The reason is, “why would you want to own something expensive that doesn’t make any money?” This statement never resonated until now. Buying a house is not a wise choice to increase your networth quickly.

Your money was put down to purchase the house you live in. You are responsible for repairs. There are many more ways to spend money on your own house and some can even increase the property value. Other than forced appreciation, your house value is growing primarily at the rate of inflation. The house you’re living in, has an expected appreciation of the average rate of inflation of 3% per year. The stock market makes double that rate of return over the long run. Another option would be starting your first rental property. Both of the previous options are definitely assets.

Which side am I?

When people are not motivated to save money, I think putting a down payment on a house you own is a great deal. It is forced savings by earning equity. If you can save up for a down payment, make your monthly mortgage payment, AND save additional money for future investments, then you might be okay to buy. My next residence will be my home for more than the next 5 years. If I foresaw any reason I would be in that unit for less than 5 years, then I would only rent.

Conclusion

Making any decision and looking at the total opportunity costs takes time and understanding. My decision has to consider the person I am with and what she wants and needs. I personally need my significant other on the same page before anything is finalized. Anyone looking to make these decisions need to research and understand everything before hand. Paula Pant from Afford Anything has a great article titled ‘Should You Invest in This Rental Property?‘ that everyone should read to understand what ever choice they decide to make. My willingness to buy a permanent residence instead of jumping directly into a rental property is based on the trust I have in myself to save money once I get my house. This decision also gives me additional time to learn about deals and get even more familiar with the market. The future will still have my rental property when I am ready.

4 Tests That Signal You’re Financially Ready to Start Investing via LenPenzo.com

It is difficult to get on the right track without having hard goals set. Give yourself something to accomplish incrementally and have items you can check off. Save for emergencies. Pay off debt. Save for retirement. Invest. My ultimate goal today is: learn how to make smart investments that make money. Today, I am not in the financial situation to begin investing but I can spend this time learning. When the day comes where my 6% student loans are paid off, I will have the knowledge to make a move. I will keep learning so when the day comes I will be completely prepared to begin structuring the rest of my life.

If you are considering investing, check out this article and make sure you are in a stable financial situation to begin that journey.

4 Tests That Signal You’re Financially Ready to Start Investing

Budgeting: Need a new laptop? Consider a Chromebook

As time goes on, the amount of time spent on the internet has increased. A UK study shows in 2005 the estimated number of hours spent on the internet was 9.9 hours and had sharply increased in 2014 to 20.5 hours. Anecdotally, most users browse the internet casually reading news, checking social media for friend updates, and sending emails. None of these tasks require expensive hardware and most of the time you accomplish these tasks on your cell phone throughout the day.

Buy based on your needs

Editing pictures, video, or playing computer games? Get a mid to high range computer with a graphics card. Anything else? Get a Chromebook! If over 95% of your time is spent inside of a web browser you will be able to save substantially by purchasing a Chromebook instead of a laptop. A decent laptop can range from $600-900. Mac laptop start at $1000 and just go up from there. A Chromebook? They start from $200 and go up based on how fantasy of one you want. Does an Apple computer really have $800 more in value for your needs? I have been using Chromebooks for two and a half years and have not spent over $250 on one. I have set up multiple websites, read ebooks, and done plenty of research all from my Chromebook. A couple of major limitations to point out, iTunes is not available, no disc drives, and no Skype [Chromebook uses Hangouts which is a worth while alternative].

Learn more about Chrome OS here.

Word processing, slide shows, and spread sheets

You can do it all on a Chromebook! You can even do some simple photo editing via Google Draw. All of the tools you need as a college student are already built in. Because Chrome OS was created by Google, all of the G-Suite aka Google Docs (Google’s web based MS Office) are available. The flexibility of Google’s online programs even allow you to download your documents in as MS Word/Power Point/Excel documents or you can upload MS documents and convert them to Google Docs. With everything saved in the cloud using Google Drive, you have access to all of your data where ever you have access to a browser.

What to look for in a Chromebook?

  • Processor: Anything Dual/Quad core
  • Memory: No less than 4 GB
  • Storage: 16 GB (Your stuff is stored in the cloud anyway)

When you compare hardware from a normal Windows laptop and a Chromebook, the Chromebook will look wimpy. Chrome OS does not need a super fast processor or tons of storage and memory. The computer was made to be light weight and minimalist while providing you the greatest range of flexibility with how you compute.

The size of the Chromebook you chose is really where preference comes in. If you have large hands choose a 13 inch size or larger. One of the nice features of Chromebooks are their compact size and portability but it comes down to how your hands feel on the keyboard. Touch screen is also a popular feature.

Why I like my Chromebook?

I own the first ASUS Flip shown above. It allows me to do everything I need to accomplish week to week. I can fold the keyboard back so it is like a tablet and read my ebooks. The battery life is 10+ hours. It never had to be turned off so when you open it up, it is ready to go. The build of this model mimics the MacBook Air styling making it look like a premium device. Placing all of my document and pictures in Google Docs/Drive gives me access to everything everywhere including my phone. There are no concerns of me losing my work because it is always backed up online.

Starting out Chromebooks did not have much popularity and struggled for the first couple of years. People are starting to realize the value they provide at their low price. They are easy to approach for all ages and levels of tech knowledge. In 2016 they FINALLY out sold Apple computers. If you are in the market for a new laptop, check out the underdog. They are great.

Budgeting: Lowering your phone bill

Data Usage Costs

Data usage is the biggest expense for any phone bill. The more you become aware of what uses data; the more you can avoid using data. Android users can monitor data usage by going into Settings > [Under Wireless & Networks] Data usage. With an iPhone, you can go into your service providers app and monitor your over all data usage as you go.

As you browse day to day, think about what apps you are using and how you are using them. Scrolling through Facebook/Twitter/Snapchat/Instagram that auto loads pictures and videos can eat through your data very quickly. The simple act of clicking a link to a YouTube video results in an almost immediate consumption of data. Streaming services download, or buffer, the video in order from start to finish, and the first several seconds of video are buffered first to ensure there is no delay or interruption once the viewer presses play, but every single byte of every video is consumed in the form of data.

Personally, I do not look at social media during the day and I am not a fan of watching videos on my phone. I found that deleting the social media apps had a domino effect on my phone usage. Not having those apps broke the need to look at my phone all the time and saved me money on my phone bill (and extended my battery life). The amount of time and focus that is gained from removing these social media apps is astonishing and the peace of mind gained is priceless. All things considered, these habits helped me lower my data usage significantly allowing me to save money. Would I rather spend $20 more a month to allow myself ‘time wasting video freedom’ or use it for dinner with my significant other?

If you are not ready to delete the apps then pick a time of day and only look at social media during those times. Toilet time? Eating lunch alone? Catching up on all of your friends posts for the day will not take very much time. It really doesn’t warrant your constant attention and is an addiction that will take time to break. Friends and family will appreciate hot having you checking your phone. Turning off your notifications can help to curb that itch.

Knowing how much data your browsing habits consume, is the start of understanding where you can cut your usage. When you look at the data usage of friends and family, a strong majority of their data is from video streaming services, followed by music, then social media.

  • 5 min of 720p HD YouTube video: 60 MB (0.06GB)
  • 3 min of music: 4.5 MB (0.0045 GB)
  • Picture: 2 MB (0.002GB)

Looking at the hard numbers, it becomes clear how quickly your data can be wasted with video alone. For heavy video users, it is not hard to see how 85% of your monthly 20 GB can be used. 30 mins a day for 30 days is 20 GB of data.

Prioritize getting a phone with large storage so you can download more things and avoid streaming. Do NOT get less than 64 GB of storage on your mobile device. The more you download the less you stream.

  1. Use Wifi when available
  2. Download YouTube/Netflix/Amazon videos on Wifi in the morning (Requires YouTube Red/Google Play Subscription)
  3. Download whole music play lists on your favorite music streaming service.
  4. Know which services your provider allows you to use apps without consuming data.

If you have low data usage (under 6GB per month) you can look into Google Fi. The service requires a Google phone right now (Nexus or Pixel). My data usage is around 0.3 GB a month and my bills range from $25-27 per month. $20 for unlimited talk/text plus $10 per GB of data usage. Any unused data get refunded allowing your phone bill to be as low as possible. When you reach over 6GB of usage ($80 Google Fi bill) other phone carriers data will be cheaper. There are many discount phone services that use big company cell towers to provide the same range of service at a much lower cost. Shop around and see what is available in your area that fits your needs.

Phone Handset Costs

Get a decent medium range phone that will last at least three years. You don’t need a new $1000 dollar phone; however, do not settle for the $200 dollar “I can only afford this today” phone. Get a refurbished version of last years hot phone and save yourself a couple hundred. The more you save on the phone, the easier it is to pay out right so you do not have to sign a contract. This will cut around $20 off your monthly bill and give you the freedom to jump from service provider to service provider as plans change and rates get cheaper.

Hopefully this knowledge can be used to lower your phone bill. Not everyone has wifi at work but the more you minimize your data usage, the lower your phone bill can be.