A Weight Loss Program With Zero Cost.

treadmill

Over the years, I have known and met people who have taken on weight loss programs either on their own or as part of advertised programs, most of whom were unsuccessful – even though most have spent substantial money on excessive gym memberships, personal trainers, personal coaches, expensive fad diets, Zumba classes, Yoga classes, boot camps etc.

The standard annual gym membership can cost between $500 to $600 a year. This does not include the hiring of a personal trainer, which can cost $80 per session. That means if you sign up for 3 sessions a week for 6 months, you’ll be paying roughly $6,000, and for 12 months around $12,000. At this rate, the only weight loss that will occur is on one’s wallet.  Potentially, the money would have grown to $700K had it been invested for 480 months at 10%. And if you sign up for expensive diet meal plans, paid Yoga classes or Zumba classes, this will set you back more.

Instead of spending that much money on expensive weight loss programs, I can give you a few tips on how this could be achieved at little or no cost to you.

Buy an Inexpensive Weighing Scale

Goal is key. If you can’t measure where you are vs. your goal, you won;t have a clue. What better way to track your performance than a weighing scale?

You don’t have to buy those expensive ones that tells you your future. This is weight loss, not fortune-telling. It does not have to have bright LED lights. Get a cheap one from a garage sale or Kijiji. Heck, you can even borrow one.

Key to weight loss is finding motivation. I find that the best motivation is seeing you lose weight with your efforts. This will also help measure if you are on the right track. Without this, you will be flying blind.

Watch What You Eat

In simple terms, fat is stored energy, and all those excess food that you take in, is stored as fat. And it is considered as ‘excess’ because you take in more than what your body needs. It is the same thing as hoarding – you bring in more stuff into your house that you don’t really need, the only difference is that everything is dumped inside a body rather than a house. If you don’t need it, don’t bring it in. Imagine how much money is spent in hoarding. Now, imagine how much money is spent overeating.

It really does not matter how much you spend on gym memberships – if you take in more than what your body uses up, you will end up with the same problem.

Burning Fat: Simplified

As with de-cluttering a house, in weight-loss, we get rid of anything in excess. We burn the excess calories (fat). We do this by using up more than what we take in. In this case burn more calories than what we take in – so it burns up extra calories stored in our bodies. We watch our weight come down slowly as these are used up.

The trick is to find cost-effective ways to achieve this. You don’t really need an expensive gym membership to lose weight.

Take advantage of the FREE Gym

During warm months, make the outdoors your gym. Take up running – or simply walk 5 kilometers per day. Keep motivating yourself by walking in nature trails and taking in the view. Walk around the neighborhood, discover streets that you rarely pass by.

Take a hiking trip with families and friends in one of the national, provincial or municipal, parks.

I motivate myself by tracking my efforts using Run Keeper – a free app I downloaded on my Android phone. It tracks distance covered, pace, time, speed and provides metrics on performance. I am able to set goals and sends me notification on goal achievements.

During winter months, look for indoor running tracks while listening to music or podcasts. We have 2 indoor running tracks which are managed by the city and therefore free.

Stay active by keeping yourself busy tending the garden, volunteering after work. Increase your metabolism by taking a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.

Does it work?

Of course! I know this works because that I have done it and have lost 30 lbs. so far while saving a ton of money. It just takes commitment and discipline.

So, have fun! The weight you lose and the money you’ll save will give you a reason to smile more.

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Increase your Child’s Chances of Becoming a Millionaire

baby_millionaires

Wouldn’t it be nice indeed if your children end up millionaires? And what we wouldn’t do, as parents, to increase our child’s chances of success of being one. Oddly though, we sometimes think that the best way to increase the odds is by spending a whole lot on their education – starting in their pre-school years, giving them hand-outs, buying them expensive gifts. But this may not be the case.

Some young parents I know are obsessed in enrolling their children in an expensive private Montessori – thinking that this will boost their child’s chances of success in their adult life. While some believe that this may help boost their IQ (Intelligence Quotient), there is another school of thought that IQ is hereditary and that there is a maximum level of intelligence for a given person. While early childhood education helps us reach the maximum potential at a much earlier time – this will not be the determining factor of success in the adult years.

There are more important factors like EQ (Emotional Quotient) that will determine your child’s success. Unlike IQ, a good thing about EQ is that it can be taught and developed. And it’s best to start them young. But that’s another discussion altogether.

Rather than focusing on spending your way to your child’s success, consider the following tips I have learned through the years:


EDUCATION IS KEY – BUT NOT THE ONLY FACTOR

There is really little debate that high school success predicted college success. Nearly 90 percent of those educated are now in professional careers – with 40 percent in the highest tier jobs.

Those who graduate college would have developed the necessary discipline to finish what they have started – which will help them become reliable, consistent and well-adjusted. By all measures, the majority of graduates would have good lives.

But it also doesn’t mean that they will end up millionaires.

DO NOT OVEREDUCATE

Money shouldn’t be the reason for higher education. While it is true that higher education may lead to higher incomes, one should also consider the return on investment.

It can be said that in the long term, a plumber can make as much for a stretch of time than a Harvard graduate. For graduates of Masters and Doctoral degrees, Doctors and Lawyers, it takes a longer time finish studies, longer loss of full-time income, and longer payment on loans to complete a higher education – while a plumber have been making decent enough money a lot earlier, has less student loan, and investing earlier. Read more.

A plumber could have just as many chances to being millionaires as the doctor or lawyer next door because what really matters is how much of the income is invested.


TEACH THEM TO BE FINANCIALLY LITERATE FROM AN EARLY AGE

There is nothing much a high-income career can do for your children, if your children are not smart with the money they earn. We have heard of horror stories about celebrities, sport athletes, and lottery winners going bankrupt. Why? That’s because they lack financial literacy needed to manage their money.

Here are a few tips I read on the web:

TEACH THEM GOOD MORAL VALUES – LIKE FIDELITY IN MARRIAGE

According to the book by Danko and Stanley, ‘The Millionaire Next Door’, the majority of wealthy people are married and stay married to the same person. According to a study, people who split up experience an average wealth drop of 77 percent. That is how divorce decreases ones chances in becoming millionaires.  More.

So, teach your kids to become loving and faithful. And it’s best to lead by example.

Furthermore, help them set priorities – like finishing school, finding work, and getting married before having kids. Studies clearly show that people who follow the success sequence do better.

DISCOURAGE A HIGH-CONSUMPTION, HIGH-STATUS LIFESTYLE

Guess who’s driving all those BMWs and Mercedes-es? Not millionaires. Eighty-six percent of “prestige/luxury” cars are bought by non-millionaires. The most popular car maker among millionaires, according to Stop Acting Rich? Toyota.

And why not? The millionaire mindset always think of value. And that’s why the majority of millionaires own their cars, rather than lease. And that is also why only approximately a quarter of millionaires have a current-year model, while another quarter drive a car that is four years old or older. And more than a third of millionaires tend to buy used vehicles.

A study from ‘The Millionaire Next Door’ suggests that actual millionaires tend to drive economical cars, live in middle-income neighborhoods, wear simple watches, and buy suits off the rack. That is why they are wealthy.

On the other hand people who look rich may not actually be rich; they tend to overspend — often on symbols of wealth — but actually have modest net worth and, sometimes, big debts.

And last, but not the least,

DO NOT GIVE CHILDREN TOO MANY HANDOUTS!!

The worst thing a parent could do is build propagate a lifestyle of entitlement. Most people who become millionaires have confidence in their own abilities. They do not spend time worrying about whether or not their parents were wealthy and are able to give them handouts.

Consider the following research uncovered about American millionaires in the book ‘The Millionaire Next Door’:

  • Only 19 percent receive any income or wealth of any kind from a trust fund or an estate.
  • Fewer than 20 percent inherited 10 percent or more of their wealth.
  • More than half never received as much as $1 in inheritance.
  • Fewer than 25 percent ever received “an act of kindness” of $10,000 or more from their parents, grandparents, or other relatives.
  • Ninety-one percent never received, as a gift, as much as $1 of the ownership of a family business.
  • Nearly half never received any college tuition from their parents or other relatives.
  • Fewer than 10 percent believe they will ever receive an inheritance in the future.

Children need to grow up making their own decisions, become creative, accountable for their actions, self-reliant and independent. Hand-outs sometimes make them dependent, unable to solve their own problems – because they can always rely on their parents to solve their problems for them.

Encourage them to get part-time jobs as students, work hard, save for their expenses, and invest for their retirement.

The Millionaire Next Door is available on Amazon.ca.

How We Compare to the Millionaire Next Door

house-car-vintage-oldI recently read an article on the Millionaire Next Door written by Thomas Stanley and William Danko. The article speaks to the general population who thinks that millionaires own expensive clothes, watches, and other status artifacts. What is interesting is that they found out that this is not the case. And in that article, they listed what a prototypical American millionaire would tell about themselves

I thought it would be a fun exercise to see if my wife and I fit in the general profile of what a prototypical millionaire would be like. So, here it is:

THE MILLIONAIRE NEXT DOOR ME
I am a fifty-seven-year-old male, married with three children. About 70 percent of us earn 80 percent or more of our household’s income. I am 53. Married with children. Before my wife retired, we were earning almost the same income.
About one in five of us is retired. About two-thirds of us who are working are self-employed. Interestingly, self-employed people make up less than 20 percent of the workers in America but account for two-thirds of the millionaires. Also, three out of four of us who are self-employed consider ourselves to be entrepreneurs. Most of the others are self-employed professionals, such as doctors and accountants. I want to work for 2 more years. I don’t own a business nor am I a highly-paid professional. I used to earn a decent income as an employee in the IT industry.
Many of the types of businesses we are in could be classified as dull normal. We are welding contractors, auctioneers, rice farmers, owners of mobile-home parks, pest controllers, coin and stamp dealers, and paving contractors. I am employed in a non-profit organization. I am a former IT professional.
About half of our wives do not work outside the home. The number-one occupation for those wives who do work is teacher. My wife is retired. She used to work for a retail company as an analyst.
Our household’s total annual realized (taxable) income is $131,000 (median, or 50th percentile), while our average income is $247,000. Note that those of us who have incomes in the $500,000 to $999,999 category (8 percent) and the $1 million or more category (5 percent) skew the average upward. Our current household income is roughly $40K. In the height of our careers, we used to earn $110-$130K per year.
We have an average household net worth of $3.7 million. Of course, some of our cohorts have accumulated much more. Nearly 6 percent have a net worth of over $10 million. Again, these people skew our average upward. The typical (median, or 50th percentile) millionaire household has a net worth of $1.6 million. We have a net worth of roughly $2.1 million.
On average, our total annual realized income is less than 7 percent of our wealth. In other words, we live on less than 7 percent of our wealth. We live on 3% of our wealth.
Most of us (97 percent) are homeowners. We live in homes currently valued at an average of $320,000. About half of us have occupied the same home for more than twenty years. Thus, we have enjoyed significant increases in the value of our homes. We own our own home with a current value of around $1 million. We have our current home for 11 years now.
Most of us have never felt at a disadvantage because we did not receive any inheritance. About 80 percent of us are first-generation affluent. We never felt disadvantaged about not having inheritance nor being the middle child. Yes, we are first-generation affluent.
We live well below our means. We wear inexpensive suits and drive American-made cars. Only a minority of us drive the current-model-year automobile. Only a minority ever lease our motor vehicles. I drive second-hand Japanese-made cars. They are well-built and lasts a long time. I never lease cars.
Most of our wives are planners and meticulous budgeters. In fact, only 18 percent of us disagreed with the statement “Charity begins at home.” Most of us will tell you that our wives are a lot more conservative with money than we are. Yes, my wife is a lot tighter on spending than I am.
We have a “go-to-hell fund.” In other words, we have accumulated enough wealth to live without working for ten or more years. Thus, those of us with a net worth of $1.6 million could live comfortably for more than twelve years. Actually, we could live longer than that, since we save at least 15 percent of our earned income. Yes, we have a “go-to-hell fund” of roughly 18 years worth.
As a group, we are fairly well educated. Only about one in five are not college graduates. Many of us hold advanced degrees. Eighteen percent have master’s degrees, 8 percent law degrees, 6 percent medical degrees, and 6 percent Ph.D.s. My wife and I hold bachelor degrees.
Only 17 percent of us or our spouses ever attended a private elementary or private high school. But 55 percent of our children are currently attending or have attended private schools. I attended a private school while my wife attended public school when we were growing up.
As a group, we believe that education is extremely important for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren. We spend heavily for the educations of our offspring. Yes, education for us is extremely important.
About two-thirds of us work between forty-five and fifty-five hours per week. I work no more than 40 hours a week. We are typical 9-5 people.
We are fastidious investors. On average, we invest nearly 20 percent of our household realized income each year. Most of us invest at least 15 percent. Seventy-nine percent of us have at least one account with a brokerage company. But we make our own investment decisions. We invest 18% of our income annually – to maximize our RRSP room.
We hold nearly 20 percent of our household’s wealth in transaction securities such as publicly traded stocks and mutual funds. But we rarely sell our equity investments. We hold even more in our pension plans. On average, 21 percent of our household’s wealth is in our private businesses. Most of our cash investments are in mutual funds. We own our home and are debt-free. We don’t own a business.
As a group, we feel that our daughters are financially handicapped in comparison to our sons. Men seem to make much more money even within the same occupational categories. That is why most of us would not hesitate to share some of our wealth with our daughters. Our sons, and men in general, have the deck of economic cards stacked in their favor. They should not need subsidies from their parents. We only have one child. A daughter.
Overall, our most trusted financial advisors are our accountants. Our attorneys are also very important. So we recommend accounting and law to our children. Yes, we trust our financial advisor. We have a 20 year-relationship with him. He was instrumental in getting us to where we are today.
I am a tightwad. For sure, my wife and I are tightwads!

Real Estate or Mutual Funds? Which is the Better Investment?

In the midst of today’s wild Toronto real estate market, one cannot help but wonder whether it would have been better investing in real estate rather than in mutual funds.

Reports suggest that prices are up 33% from same time the previous year. Needless to say, people are cashing in – especially those who invested in real estate in the long term. This boosts the impression that it is better to invest in real estate rather than mutual funds. This may be true in the short term – and its a speculator’s paradise. But recent measures have been implemented to discourage such practices.

Based on historical numbers however, financial advisors often insist on you investing in mutual funds rather than in real estate. Is this true, or are these just attempts for you to sign up for their services rather than a realtors’?

Based on my own personal experience, I find mutual funds investing a better option than real estate. Quite simply, here’s why: we invested more time and money in real estate for 23 years but had less returns compared to our investment in mutual funds.

We purchased our first home in 1994 and invested in mutual funds for our retirement funds, 5 years after. Currently, the worth of our home is $1.088 million and our retirement funds currently sits at $1.090 million – a little bit more than our real estate assets. The money we put into both was approximately the same month after month. But based on the fact that our we only started our retirement investment 5 years later than our first house purchase, it is clear that mutual fund investing had better returns for us in the long term.

Consider too – the cost that went to interest on mortgage financing that we had to pay until the house was fully paid off in 2014. We never incurred such costs for our retirement investments. Also, had our real estate investments been a secondary property, half of our gains would have been subject to capital gains tax – whereas our growth on our retirement investments are tax-free.

So, for those who thinks they are missing out on investment opportunities in today’s crazy real estate market, don’t fret. Consider investing in mutual funds instead.

Transitioning into Retirement: How My Life Has Changed.

With a net worth sitting around the $2.1M mark, with no mortgage and debt, my wife and I should consider ourselves financially independent. I know a lot of people who would, given my financial situation, retire – so, once in a while I ask myself, why am I still working?

There’s a few considerations why and I guess it all goes down into timing. While my wife retired 2 years ago at 55, I still have 2 good years before I get to 55. I guess financially, it would be great to give our financial portfolio 2 more years of possible growth. But regardless of whether the market will cooperate or not, we decided that we will live with what we have at the end of 2 years.

Right now, I call this pre-retirement phase, ‘Transitioning’. Not there yet, but I know it’s coming. With that at the back of my mind, here are some changes that I notice for me personally:

WORK LIFE

  • I now work because I want to, NOT because I have to. That’s because I no longer fear losing my home. 
  • I can afford to work on non-profit causes that make an impact on society – and giving meaning to my job.
  • I no longer care about office politics. While there is actually less of that in a non-profit organization. I actually really don’t care.
  • I have better relationship with co-workers. This is because I don’t have a personal agenda coming to work everyday. I can be as genuine as I would like. I care, because I really care.
  • I no longer care for titles, high salaries. I am now a witness to the reality that these do not define who we are as a person.
  • I now desire to work very close to home, regardless of the pay. Working a few blocks away, I find that my days are longer.
  • I have less stress because I do not have to rush going to work. I do not have to compete with anybody, nor do I have to prove anything to anybody.

HOME LIFE

  • I have a much better relationship with my wife. Less stress does wonders. I can focus on my wife’s needs more; and have more time to be with her and take care of her. As an added bonus, I have the luxury of coming home for lunch.
  • I have more quality time to spend with our grand kids. Less stress and less time commuting does wonders.

HEALTH

  • With the extra time each day, my wife and I find time to walk. I have also restarted running 5K on a regular basis.
  • I find that less stress helps with cravings. I now focus on a lean diet and I no longer over indulge in food.
  • In less than a 8 months, I lost 30 lbs. And because of this, my wardrobe expanded due to the fact that my old clothes started to fit me again.

SPENDING

  • I have taught myself to buy only the basics, and be happy with what I have.
  • I remain not having a desire to eat-out – and over the years have expanded by cooking regimen but still focused on my favorite cuisines.
  • I no longer have any desire to purchase trending electronic appliances such as home-theatre system
  • I continue to challenge myself in finding the cheapest way of getting the same result. For example, when people want to lose weight, they purchase a gym-membership. To achieve the same result, I simply run around the block.
  • I remain a couponer, to save money whenever I can.

FASHION

  • I no longer shop for business apparel. Whatever business clothes I have, will have to live it out its final 2 years. Thankfully, my transition-to-retirement job allows for business casual, casual, and jeans — my colleagues do not believe in power business attires and neither does the Executive Director. Lucky me. I get to wear relaxed clothing in my final work years.
  • I started looking for breathable, quick-drying, moisture-wicking clothing. These are perfect for future and long-term travel. However, I limit purchases to a pair of each kind (short-sleeve shirts, zip-pants, sweaters, etc.). My footwear of choice are hiking shoes that are breathable and waterproof.

LIFFESTYLE

  • I am now leaning towards a minimalist lifestyle.
  • I am also leaning towards a condominium lifestyle.
  • I have begun to discern a life that is deliberate and intentional.

Finally, at this phase in our lives, we would like to remove any attachment to things that do not matter, do not serve any purpose, nor provide any value. There is nothing we would love more than to devote our lives to things that matter – and focus in living a meaningful life.

 

Working around Limitations: The Road to Weatlth

This is one rule that worked for me: Know your limitations. Embrace it – then work around it..

Sure, we could listen to the advise of career gurus that always say: push beyond your limits, work on these areas, achieve the impossible, rise up to challenges. These are good things, sometimes they do work, but not all the time. 

But when you have reached your limit and you have taken it as far as you can go, consider working around it.

I am certified introvert, and no matter how I try, I could never be comfortable speaking to a large crowd. I could, but it will just stress me out to no end. I could try and ‘compete’ with colleagues who talk better than I do – even if their work sucks. But in the end, we know who is going to get the promotion – and its not going to be the quiet guy.

So while you see your colleagues buy the fancy cars, big mansions, and luxury vacations, try not to focus on those. Instead, focus on what you have. In my case, I have one thing other people did not have – patience. 

No, its not the patience that’s waiting an eternity for a promotion. That’s stupidity. So, while my colleagues reap the rewards of their ‘success’ in the short term, I focused on the long term.

I knew that with my ‘lack of communication skills’, there will come a time when my luck will run out – and I know it will come earlier than most people. So, I set a target for age 55 or earlier. And that goal was financial independence. It was the the hope of freedom – from stress and helplessness in the midst of office politics. My someday.

I had 20 years to work it out. But I have the patience. High-yield investments require long term commitment. And that’s just fine with me.

I sought out a financial advisor who can work with me to achieve my financial goals. Now, I am 2 years away from my 55th birthday – but already I have achieved my targets.

I still plan to work 2 more years. But having no mortage, no debt and a 7-figure retirement fund, I have placed myself in a position where I would enjoy working.

In the meantime, those successful colleagues would still be working to pay off those luxuries they have taken. Some if them admittedly plan to work until their 70’s in order to sustain their lifestyle. That’s the reality with upgraded lifestyles, it also comes with neglected mortgages, upgraded costs in interest financing, and over-extended career life. 

Is it really worth it?