Happy 20th birthday to our car!

Not an accurate representation of our car 39

It’s official – our car is a senior citizen

This year our car turned twenty. While 20 years might not sound like much when talking about humans, twenty years is pretty old when it comes to automobiles. Car years are quite similar to dog years. Usually, cars of this age are either sitting at salvage yards being picked for parts, or being driven by very fragile old ladies that can barely see the road over the steering wheel. Yes, our car is THAT old, yet I’m no old lady and do not live in a salvage yard.

 

Our car has a lot of history

Our car (and before me and my wife met – my car) has been places. It saw things. If it could talk, it would tell you stories like a Vietnam vet after you buy him a drink. It would tell you stories of empty highways, horrors of finding parking in Vancouver, breakdowns in the middle of nowhere, and police chases. I’d take the police chases stories with a grain of salt, but the rest is legit.

It has traveled far and wide. Our noble servant went as far as Winnipeg once, crossed the Canadian Rockies on the way to Calgary, and took us to Tofino on Vancouver Island. But for the most part it is our reliable way of getting to work day in and day out.

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Prepare for financial disaster: You Need a Swiss Army Knife of Personal Finance

When I was much younger …

… I used to go camping almost every week with my friends.  Growing up in Soviet Union (and later Russia) our camping trips were quite different from what kids these days do – we had no luxury of driving to a camping spot and bringing every item imaginable to use while we were there. Instead we were limited to what we could fit into our backpacks, and camped like little Spartans – no electricity, no running water, and total reliance on yourself.

We would cook our food from scratch with fish we caught, collect firewood and build our own fire, and sometimes even make our own shelter. So, you might say we were used to getting by with what we had instead of bringing everything and anything from home.

Naturally, just like every camper I’ve always packed my Swiss army knife when packing the day before. Swiss army knifes are ingenious because you’re basically carrying a dozen of tools with you that come in handy when the situation calls for it. Big blade is great for cutting down small branches. Small sharp blade is great for gutting fish. Little saw might not see action every day, but it can really help you out on occasion. Scissors are great when patching your tent. Can opener is quite awesome for opening cans, naturally. Some of these tools you’d use several times a day, and some hardly ever. But boy, that Swiss army knife helped on so many occasions.

 

Swiss army knife of personal finance

Why would I start off by talking about my swiss army knife and what does it have to do with main topic of this blog – personal finance? Everything.

You can’t predict what will happen with you tomorrow. Life can go seventeen different ways from Sunday, and you have to be prepared for it. Being prepared financially for life’s turns takes a number of steps which over the years I’ve identified and implemented in my life. Hopefully, by sharing them with you, I can help somebody to be prepared financially for tomorrow.

Here’s our Swiss army knife of personal finance:

 

Prepare for financial disaster

Prepare for financial disaster

 

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I’m starting my own DREAM Savings Account!

What in the world is a DREAM Savings Account?

Updated: Click here to read the latest update on my DREAM Savings Account balance

So, I’ve been thinking (good start, eh?). Few weeks ago, I’ve sat down and came up with a list of things I’d like to accomplish. Cool kids these days call it “bucket list” and put things like “travel to 100 countries” or “eating world’s largest burrito!” on it .

Some of my goals and dreams are somewhat silly such as “driving an army tank” or “meeting Kevin Smith“. But other goals are very practical and I view them more like milestones as opposed to “dreams” – for example, starting my own online business that in turn will allow me to pay for my future kids post secondary education or become a silent investor in a business.Continue Reading

Achieving Financial Zen

Just few years ago

 

… our finances were a mess. When I and Mrs. Financial Underdog combined our lives, we didn’t quite combine our finances. Each of us came into marriage with some debt, some credit cards, some savings, and even some investments. Unfortunately, when combined all of these accounts created a mess! It was extremely hard to keep track of our money, and it started to cause some serious problems. But through some hard work and few simple moves, we’ve managed to achieve financial peace and bring financial Zen to our money situation!Continue Reading

Seven budgeting myths I will bust for you (number 2 is my favorite!)

Budgeting myths need to be busted

 

Here’s the thing about exercise. Nobody really wants to do it. We all know we should be doing it at least twice a week, yet only a minority of people actually do it. And the funny thing – people actually doing it on a ongoing basis don’t look like they actually need to do it. It’s mostly skinny beautiful people jogging in the morning! At the same time I’m staying under a blanket making up the reasons why I should stay there. My leg kind of hurts. Tuesday is not a good day to start exercising, it has to be Monday. Preferably Monday, January 1st. I don’t want to wake up my wife. The pillow is way too soft and comfy. Plus I heard about a serial killer targeting specifically joggers…Continue Reading

Book giveaway! David Bach – Smart Couples Finish Rich

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Hey, who doesn’t like free stuff?

 

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I’m giving away a copy of David Bach’s Smart Couples Finish Rich book along with Finish Rich Workbook (both Canadian edition, eh?). If you’re struggling with money and would like to change your financial life, I think this would be a great book to read to start your journey to recovery and towards greater financial success.

What’s more important, this book focuses on couples. I’ve always thought agreement on financial matters is absolutely crucial for couples because seen many times what disagreements can do to couple’s finances. David explains how to properly communicate with each other about money, and how to get the dialogue going.

This book would be a great help to you if you are in a long-term committed relationship and don’t have open, frank discussions with your significant other about money. The entire book focuses on ways to open up this discussion and make it go easier, particularly in the early steps of the plan. The raw financial advice is pretty basic; the power of this book is found in the strengthened relationship that it can facilitate.

 

About David Bach and his books

 

A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away when I was taking yet another night course in college, I was searching frantically for an article about automatic electronic relays (don’t ask me what that is!). By accident, I came across a book review on David Bach’s Automatic Millionaire. Being a curious person, I clicked on the link and quickly scanned through it and thought it’s worth checking out later – especially since back then I was dealing with being in debt, and one of the chapter was specifically addressing that problem.

David Bach’s style of explaining personal finance matters was very appealing to me – not judgmental, action-oriented, and very positive. He didn’t say I was a bad person for being in debt, he didn’t try to present me with some sketchy concept of attracting money by imagining yourself rich (Yuck!). He simply broke down personal finance into milestones, and walk through them. All I had to do was to follow along.

Later on, I’ve read a lot of personal finance books. But Automatic Millionaire will always be the book that changed my life after I stumbled upon it completely by accident. Sometimes I wonder how our lives would be different if I didn’t click on thank link. Where my net worth would be right now, if I’d still be in debt, if I’d start investing money with a great dream of becoming financially independent one day?

 

 What do you have to do to get this book?

 

All you have to do is to leave a comment (or send me an email at financialunderdog@gmail.com) and tell me your most important issue with money. What you find the most difficult thing to tackle? What frustrates you the most? Maybe it’s your debt, maybe it’s fear of investing, maybe it’s your secret addiction to Big Whoppers that drains your bank account. Simple as that!

I will pick a winner on Friday, June 20th and will contact you shortly for your mailing address.

Mid-year update: Goals and Resolutions – 2014

New Year Resolutions 2

Goals and resolutions strike back!

 

Holy macaroni, does the time fly or what!? Feels like only few days ago I was putting together the list of our goals and resolutions for this year. And here we are, almost half way through the year. Somebody asked me other day – how am I doing on my goals and resolutions? Have I given up yet? Well, let’s take a look at the original goals:

 

1. Invest 30% of our income

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

HIT! This goal was smashed to pieces! For every single month starting from January to May we’ve put away 30% of our income towards investments for the future. It doesn’t include saving for future spending (new car or travel, etc.), it includes specifically saving money towards investments for our financial independence. Check out our latest investment in solar energy in Ontario!

In fact, we’ve increased it to 33% (weird number but whatever works!) few months ago after we realized we actually have some leftover money in our budget. Being debt free has an awesome effect of leaving more money in your pocket; money you can put towards your own goals, not your bank’s. Take that, big banks!

Most financial advisors recommend saving at least 10% towards retirement, but I really feel 10% won’t be enough – partly because we don’t make a lot of money, so it will take a larger portion of our income to save considerable amount of money. Not fair, but just means we have to work harder on this saving thing.  Years ago we’ve started with 10%, later increased it to 20%, and now we’re at 33% rate of savings. One day I’d like to get to 50% of savings through either increasing our incomes (can somebody hire me for $100,000/year? I’m great at making sarcastic comments and eating sandwiches), or cutting down our expenses – although we already live lean and mean.

BONUS HIT #1!: We’ve finished saving for a new car. Our car is a gazillion years old by now, and while it served us faithfully for years, the chances of it breaking down beyond reasonable repairs are getting higher with every kilometer. Heck, with almost 250,000 kilometers on its speed-o, the engine might fall out tomorrow. So, few months ago we’ve opened up a savings account just for this and been throwing whatever we can into it on a monthly basis, including our 2013 tax refunds. Now that we have $10,000 sitting in that account (I ain’t paying over $10,000 for a new car), I don’t really care if this one breaks down one day – we can simply write a check and buy a new one overnight. One less thing to worry about!

BONUS HIT #2!: We’ve also increased our mortgage payment by 10%. While it wasn’t on my original list of goals and resolutions, this is something we’ve been doing every year for the last 3 years. Thankfully, our mortgage company doesn’t mind us doing it unlike some restrictive banks out there. This is the trick I’ve learned from  one of my friends – by increasing your mortgage payment every year, you’re speeding up the repayment process by years. And while having extra money for fun might have been nice, seeing our mortgage being repaid is fun too, trust me. Besides, we can always find something cheap for fun, fun doesn’t have to be expensive. Heck, when I was a kid I played with a stick for fun…and it was fun!

 

2. Update my blog on a weekly basis

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

CLOSE CALL!: In five months (January to May) I’ve made eighteen entries in my blog, so it works out roughly 3.6 times/month which is a bit below my goal. Now, this goal really doesn’t change anything in my world, but the whole point was to work out a bit of a habit for myself. And I’m almost there! March was a bit of a miss with only one entry because I got incredibly busy at work. So, with some extra entries here and there, I hope to bring up the overall total to 5 (five) times a month by the end of the year.

 

Here are three of my favorite posts written in this period:

 

Why I Don’t Want to Buy a New Car – this blog entry was featured in Globe and Mail and caused a record number of comments (some of them were surprisingly angry).

How much money do Olympic athletes earn? – just something I’ve always been wondering about so I did some research on Internet.

Investing in solar energy – blog post about our latest investment, and why I hope to make some money with Ontario’s solar energy.

On a side not, I’m really enjoying this whole blogging thing. I do like writing, and I’d like to think that my posts are somewhat informative and helpful for other people. Reading other blogs is also quite enjoyable, and I love little friendships with like-minded individuals I’ve formed in the last few months. Twitter is not exactly my thing, but I love being able to talk to people across the world who are facing same challenges and have similar goals when it comes to financial freedom.

 

Here’s some blogs I’ve been enjoying lately:

 

Million Dollar Journey – Awesome blog about smart investing towards financial independence.

Freedom Thirty Five Blog – Liquid blogs about out-of-the-box investing towards financial freedom and top 1% status. He focuses on less traditional investments such as investing in farmland in Saskatchewan, and mortgage investment corporations (something we’ve invested in ourselves). Fantastic read if you’re looking for something both informative and entertaining.

Budgets Are Sexy – hawk-sporting J. Money makes financial nerdiness cool. He’s a pimp daddy of personal finance blogs.

Stacking Benjamins – great blog and also podcast about financial matters run by Joe and OG. Before I found them, I thought I was the biggest movie nerd in history. These guys surely put me to shame with their movie references.

Mr. Money Mustache is a legend by now. Blogs about simple living and how he managed to retire by his 30th birthday.

 

3. Lose 50 lbs. of weight

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

EPIC FAIL!: Well, I failed miserably in this department. But it’s not going anywhere from my list of goals and resolutions for this year!

My original intentions were to carefully track my food intake to the point of weighing all my meals and at the same time to ramp up my gym visits. As far as tracking down food intake, it stopped around March (my excuse was being busy) and never resumed. Gym visits are sporadic – and while I truly enjoy working out once I’m there, sometimes watching yet another episode of Dragons’ Den on Netflix seems like a way better way to pass the time than lifting heavy things and putting them down. Seriously, that’s all people do there.

I find it funny (and sad at the same time) that I have enormous discipline when it comes to finances and can fight over a single dollar in our budget just to hit our goals (sometimes it backfires on me), yet when it comes to simple things like going to a gym or cutting down on cheese appear to me as incredibly hard things to conquer. Frustrating!

 

4. Read a new book every two weeks

 

Goals and Resolutions Update

Goals and Resolutions Update

 

HIT! While this goal doesn’t have anything to do with personal finance or investing, I’m proud that I’ve hit it. There are many ways to waste the time in this world, and reading books isn’t the worst of them. What can be better than acquiring new knowledge and being lightly entertained at the same time?

 

Here’s some of the books I’ve enjoyed lately:

 

Wolf of Wall Street by Jordan Belfort. This book was later turned into a movie by the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Wiseguy: Life in a Mafia Family by Nicholas Pileggi

The Behavior Gap by Carl Richards. Brilliant book that discusses how most people miss out on great returns by making some rather stupid things with their investments.

The Richest Man in Babylon by George Samuel Clason. I’ve came to a conclusion that everything you need to know about personal finance is directly discussed in this book. If you read just this one book, you don’t need to read any other books on personal finance, seriously.

I’m planning on sticking to my schedule and making a point of reading two books a month.

 

 5. Cut down on unnecessary information intake

 

WORK IN PROGRESS!

The reason why I put this on my list of goals and resolutions, was because I’ve noticed that sometimes I spend way too much on Internet (and other ways too) reading up on something that is completely irrelevant to my life. I’d be listening to talk radio on the way to work discussing latest politics scandals. I would find myself reading news on subjects that have no connection to my life whatsoever.

Why waste this time on it? Why obsesses myself with subjects that will never affect my life in any way. Who cares about politics? Shouldn’t I focus on my dreams and goals before paying attention to anything else?

So, now on the way to work me and my wife mostly talk instead of listening to daily news. I stopped paying attention to news sites and anything to do with politics. It’s work in progress, but it’s slowly getting better.

 

 What’s next for goals and resolutions?

 

I’ll continue working on these goals and resolutions, and revisit the list once again, just around end of the year. I’m really hoping to make progress on all goals and resolutions I’m doing poorly right now, and I will try to excel at the ones I’m hitting already.

After all, if you’re a Financial Underdog and were not born with a silver spoon in your mouth and a nice trust fund to live off, the only thing that’s left to do is to keep working on improving yourself. And an occasional episode of The Walking Dead here and there, am I right?