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July 4, 2013, 6:00 am

My Biggest Issues With College

by: MD    Category: Career

“If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.” — Frank Zappa

I’ve been thinking a lot about college lately. I’ve been living with my cousin, a bit outside of Toronto and we have lots of friends that are still students. Some of them are in graduate school and some are still undergraduate.

The idea of college has popped up a lot lately and has been a hot discussion. I have friends that swear by school and will likely be in school for the next 10 years. Then I have other friends who got out as soon as possible and never looked back.

In all of this discussion, I’ve come to realize that I have a few huge problems with college in general. And luckily I have a place to voice my opinions where we can have a mature discussion.

What are my biggest issues with college right now?

It’s so inflexible.

You just have to accept everything. You can’t challenge anything. You can’t deviate at all. You either take it or leave it.

There’s no flexibility at all.

When I was in school, I always tried to work full-time hours. As a result, I took summer courses often. This was never easy. Courses wouldn’t be offered at certain times or I couldn’t take over a certain amount of courses.

There was just no flexibility in terms of courses. You have to take the courses they want you to take, when they want you to take them. I was a huge fan of taking the difficult courses in the summer to get them out of the way. For some reason, my college always made this so difficult for me.

Another point on flexibility — school takes up a lot of time, energy, and focus. This is time or energy that you could be directing at so many other projects. You could do so much more with your time and energy.

And it takes four years just to earn a basic undergraduate degree. Specialization? Another few years.

One person determines you results.

It’s scary how one person is in charge of your future. You get one bad grade on an assignment or a professor doesn’t agree with your thesis, and you could get a grade that brings your average down.

Isn’t it scary how one person determines everything? I think it’s pretty damn freaky.

Even worse is your thesis. It gets graded by a panel and only a few people will ever read it. Every blog post you can write online will be guaranteed to be read by more people.

One size does NOT fit all.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” — Albert Einstein

We all learn differently. We all react differently. So why is everything so standardized?

I saw friends receive horrible grades (by their standards) in classes because they messed up a presentation. Guess what? Not everyone is charismatic. Why should the introvert suffer because they got nervous during a presentation?

School isn’t for everyone.

I have a friend who is only in school because his parents are forcing him to be. The problem is that he honestly doesn’t have the skill-set to be in school. He’s very handy and could build anything. Instead of getting into trades, his parents forced him to attend a big university. He doesn’t like his program and has no interest in any of his classes. Yet, his parents won’t let him drop out because they want him to get that degree. He wants nothing to do with the degree. He has failed a whole year. His parents have lectured him. Still, he spends his summers making good money in his trade. Then suddenly when the fall rolls around he’s forced back to college where he hates it.

My point here is that college isn’t for everyone. We can’t assume that every single person needs to go to college. Some folks are more skilled in other fields.

You’re avoiding life.

You need to stop avoiding life and hiding behind college.

Real life isn’t that scary. It’s actually pretty fun.

I see far too many of my friends hiding behind the whole college system. They stick around in school because they don’t want to look for a job. They love the student status.

The school loves it because the means more revenue. It’s far too easy to hide in college until you’re 30.

Oh and worst of all…

You don’t make money.

I know, I know. Money isn’t everything. Knowledge is power. I agree with that. That’s cool.

But who’s to say that you can’t acquire knowledge while working or doing something else? You don’t have to be a formal classroom to learn a thing or two.

Learning is great. Being flat broke in your late-20s sucks.

Those are my issues with college right now. Did I come off too strong? Do you agree or disagree with any of them?

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June 5, 2013, 5:00 am

Do You Live for Today or for Tomorrow?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Assets and Net Worth,Career

 

 

Last week, I wrote about our Daycare project in order to make more money. This is the compromise we found to make more money, reestablish our budget and still enjoy our quality of life. While my wife will be working and I will have to participate more in the household chores, my children will still come home from school early and we will be there to help them do their homework.

 

However, we won’t be chillin’ like villains as we are right now. Life has been pretty smooth since I moved into my house in the country three years ago. We haven’t worked much, enjoyed two awesome vacations in Virginia Beach and Disney World an even put money in the house so we have central AC and a pool for summers. As I have mentioned before, life was great but my debts were stagnating. It was somewhat impossible with such a lifestyle to aggressively drop my debts and I even ended-up with some consumer debt, something I’m definitely not used to having!

 

Working Harder with One Goal in Mind

 

I’m pushing harder on my online company while my wife will start her daycare for one specific reason: we want to reach financial independence. I’m tired of looking at my account balance to make sure I have enough money to cover for the month. I’m tired of thinking about the best moment to cash out my employer’s stock or waiting for my year-end bonus in order to breathe again. This strategy worked well for several years and enabled me to live beyond my means most of the time. This time is over.

 

Why Live for Tomorrow if You Have To Skip Today??

 

Some people think it’s better to live now and not wait for tomorrow. Their thesis is based on a pretty strong argument: what if you die tomorrow? Since nobody knows, I guess we can argue a long time about this concept of life. On the other hand, I’m tempted to ask: what if you live until 90? The odds are actually on my side as your chances of dying tomorrow are pretty thin compared to an average life expectancy over 80 now in industrial countries…

 

Nonetheless, I’ve always been a big supporter of the “live now and see for tomorrow”. I have a stable job with a solid pension plan so I don’t really mind about tomorrow. I spend a lot of money to enjoy life right now and even dropped my hours worked since 2009 to almost feel like a half-retirement (after all, who can work in a bank at 4 days a week? Hahaha!). But over the past six months, I realized that I want even more. I’ve been telling people as a half joke, half truth that I wanted to retire by the age of 35. I’m turning 32 this year and I now truly want to retire at 35. It’s not really retirement; it is more like financial independence.

 

The Price of Early Retirement

 

Dreaming about the morning where I will have to head for my coffee before playing golf is surely interesting but it doesn’t bring the dough home. While I’ve realized I want to retire early to enjoy life, I also realized that I have to make some sacrifices to make it happen. You can’t chill out and hope you will win the lottery.

 

The price of my early retirement is definitely in the number of hours worked. I have to go back to 50 hours/week while my wife goes from “0” to 40! Don’t get me wrong, she is definitely working more hours than me right now being a stay-at-home mom but those hours are not compensated. This is what we need: more money to pay off our debts faster!

 

By changing our life and making more sacrifices, it implies I will have to participate a lot more in doing household chores and that we will have to do the groceries over the weekend and so on. Our lifestyle won’t be as smooth as it was before. But I know that we will build a stronger future for us and our children.

 

I Won’t do That Forever

 

If I had to change my current lifestyle for the next 10 years or even for the rest of my life, the change wouldn’t make sense to me. The point here is to work very hard for the next three years and then, change  our lifestyle drastically. I did it once when I started working ten years ago and I was able to buy myself 5 years working 4 days a week. Next time, the goal will be to drop my hours worked to 25 hours/week. This is just enough to keep me busy and ensure a source of income. But I won’t be able to do this as long as I have all those debts!

 

Which Kind of SacrificesAre You Willing to Make?

 

I told my wife that the next three years won’t be fun. We will be working hard and this is going to be very tough. However, in three years, we won’t have discussion about our budget anymore. This is the whole point: being able to spend money as I want without having to check my bank account.

 

This new project implies that we will both crank up our hours worked. I don’t want to cut back on my current lifestyle and there is not much I can cut out of my budget anyways. This is why the only solution is to crank up the income for a few years and use this extra income to clear our debts.

 

Would you be willing to work like an animal for the next three years if it leads to financial independence? 

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May 22, 2013, 4:15 am

What Would You Do Without a Job?

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business,Career,Make Money Online

 

 

I have discussed the topic of having a Plan B on this blog a few times. Recently,  I explained how much I would need in 30 days to pay off my bills if I was going to lose my job today. What I barely discussed yet is what would I do with my time?

 

Working on my online company

 

Yeah… that’s the easy answer and you are probably thinking about something similar to these options:

 

Find another job

Grow my side gig

Become a freelancer

 

These all sound like great ideas, but that’s BS…. Why? Simply because there is no plan attached to it! If I do some stupid math, I would resume my situation with the following equation:

 

10 hours / week of work = $9,000 of gross revenues per month

50 hours / week of work = X

X = $45,000 of gross revenues per month

Repeat after me: “FORTY FIVE THOUSAND PER MONTH”.

 

This is the most unrealistic number I’ve ever heard out loud… oh wait! I know people making this much online… Mike… listen to me… just quit your darn job!

 

I won’t quit my job right now because I’m a cozy coward. A cozy coward is someone who doesn’t have the guts to leave his comfort zone to get his hands dirty again to work on another project. I would rather enjoy my wine on the terrace than type like a crazy maniac on my computer in my basement.

 

Nonetheless, if I had a choice between keeping my day job and leaving my company or leaving my day job and keeping my company, I would chose the latter. Maybe this is what I’m waiting for to make the big move. This thought crossed my mind recently and I thought “Darn! I’m so not prepared to work 50 hours/week on my company… what would I do???

 

How Can I Use My 50 Hours Per Week?

 

Ah! This is what I need to do! Plan my 50 hour weekly workload to make sure it will result in something that makes so much money that I could live a crazy life. The key here is not to increase the amount of time required to manage my online business but to use the extra 40 hours in a manner where I could make a lot more money. You read that on this blog many times: focus on value-added tasks. If I can’t make more money with these hours, I’m just as good as dead.

 

The key here is to work 10 hours per day from Monday to Friday. If I start at 7am, this means I finish at 6pm (with an hour of lunch). It’s darn hard but it’s feasible. We don’t call being an entrepreneur a sacrifice for nothing, right?

 

I know myself very well and know that when I’m creating something, I work all-in. Therefore, I could focus on just one specific task each day. For example, my schedule could look like this:

Monday: write all my blog posts

Tuesday: work on niche sites

Wednesday: produce comments, emails and promotions

Thursday: work on an eBook

Friday: tweak my sites (SEO, design, conversion rate, etc).

 

This sounds like a good plan for someone who can jump from one thing to another. But it doesn’t sound like a real plan for me. I would rather focus on a narrow set of things…

A Weekly Routine

 

Here’s what my weekly routine would look like:

 

Monday

Take the 10 hours to generate content for my blogs for the week. Ideally, write 8 blog posts during that day.

 

Friday

Tweaking day!

Focus on improving conversion rate on existing products,

Study website traffic,

Plan for new ideas,

Do SEO, link building,

Improve design, try new software,

Improve newsletter,

Outsource irrelevant tasks,

Manage employees,

Plan topics for the following week, etc.

 

Okay… so I have 2 days planned; the beginning and the end of the week. They make up the daily stuff concentrated into 2 days per week. There is not much I can do to vary this kind of work. However, this leaves me 3 days… or 30 hours to focus on specific projects.

 

I would take this 3 days block to focus on 1 project at a time. My guess is that I would probably be able complete at least one project per month since it equals 120 hours on a project. I don’t think I ever put 120 hours on any of my projects so far, therefore I can only imagine how great it could be to so!

 

Specific Projects I Would Work On

 

I think I would need to list at least 12 projects to make sure that I make more money each month. Technically, it’s not really stupid math to think that if I can work 120 hours on a site it would generate an additional $500/month. This means that I could *technically* improve my revenues by $6,000 per month within a year. After 12 months of working for myself, the company would be making roughly $15,000/month. I could then draw a salary of $8,000 per month easily… wow…

 

All right, enough with day dreaming… now it’s time to generate these dollars with real projects. It’s one thing to think about making money, it’s another one to make the site generate it!

 

Here’s a list of 12 ideas that could generate $500/month:

 

#1 Optimize all my niche sites to grow by $500/month

 

#2 Create a membership website

 

#3 Create an authority site to become a successful financial planner

 

#4 Create another set of 5 small niches sites generating $100/month each

 

#5 Create additional products to sell for my existing websites

 

#6 Take my 5 main sites and improve them so they make more money

 

#7 Create an authority website about insurance

 

#8 Create an authority website about finding a job (how ironic! Hahaha!)

 

#9 Create a series of product review niche sites

 

#10 Write eBooks (would require more than 1 to generate $500/month though)

 

#11 Take a month to learn how to use different technique and products to improve my site (and make money with affiliate programs on top of my improvements)

 

#12 Work on special promotions for affiliate programs and sell them through my newsletter

 

 

That’s shocking

 

I often do that when I write on TFB: I start a blog post with an idea but I have no clue where it will lead me. So as you read this article, you have a resume of my high speed level of thinking about my future. Within a few hours, I just found out that if I quit my job, I could probably generate another $6,000 per month within 12 months. This plan is obviously not detailed enough as published but there is definitely enough room in this brainstorming session to generate the money I’m looking for. Plus, it is line with a highly sustainable plan…

 

I’m shocked.

 

I didn’t expect that. I didn’t expect that it would be realistic to think this way. After writing the post, it doesn’t seem completely ridiculous. In fact, I’m not even sure it sounds risky…

 

What do you think? Would you drop the ball and go all-in?

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May 15, 2013, 4:45 am

The Importance of Keeping Focus

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Business,Career

 

 

I have so many projects, I don’t know where to start….

 

At work, with your sideline business or for life in general, I’ve observed that many people can’t manage their time well. They all have tons of things to do and work super hard over long hours. But the result is always the same; they can’t make it.

 

If you feel overloaded, under pressure, crumbling under your pile of work, this post is for you.

 

WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO ACHIEVE YOUR TASKS?

 

Honestly, it’s difficult because you want it to be that way. My boss once said:

You can keep shuffling paper all day. At the end of the day, you will have worked 10 hours in a row like donkey, but nothing will be done.

 

The problem is not if you are working hard or not, the problem is that you are not working on the right things. I’m known for my sense of productivity. I’m actually obsessed by efficiency. If there would be a religion based on effectiveness, I would be one of their greater preachers ;-). I have never believed that working long hours was the solution to achieve any task. Get smart instead. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned to make sure I keep my focus on the right thing.

 

CLEAR UP YOUR MIND… AND YOUR MAILBOX!

 

One of the biggest time consuming items in your life (after traffic, lol!) is probably email managing. In order to become efficient, you need to have a clear view of what has to get done. You need to look at the entire forest, not just the tree in front of you. If you attack one task after another, you’ll be a good soldier, but you will never lead the army.

 

What bugs me the most is my mailbox. I can’t start my day with an inbox full of email. This is why I always start my day by cleaning it out. In reality, there are only a few emails requiring immediate attention. Chances are that it’s not even 1 a day! This is why I scan through all my emails, delete the ones that are useless, forward a good part of them to other people who can work on them and answer 1 or 2 crucial emails in the morning. This way, I know that my mailbox is almost empty and the rest could be cleared towards the end of the day.

 

IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITY

 

Each morning, after cleaning my inbox, I look at my week and at my day. I make a list of things I absolutely need to finish. Those are added value task that nobody could do. I’m not here to shuffle paper, I’m here to add value to my company; regardless if it’s my employer or my own company. The point is to add value when you work on something.

 

The short list will lead to the rest of my day and help me prioritize tasks. Every time a new thing to do hits my desk, I look at my quick list and determine if it should be part of it or not. Most of the time, it shouldn’t. So I put this task aside and continue my focus. I do exactly the same thing with my online company: focus on my quick list and put the rest aside.

 

Towards the end of the day, I have less “brain energy” so I can handle the rest of my emails, shuffle paper around and clean up other small tasks. The important things have been done, so I can spend time on things that don’t matter as much.

 

DON’T TAKE A STEP BACK, RUN FOR A MILE AND THEN LOOK BACK

 

People say you need to take a step back to have a clear view. I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think you need to run a mile, go to the top of a mountain and then turn back and look at the big picture. At each beginning of the year, I take an hour or two to make my plan for the year. This plan is good for my day job, my online company and my personal life.

 

I listed my goals for 2013 for my personal and online business aspects on this blog. I do the same thing at work to make sure I’ll be on target with my objectives. You know what? This is why I never fail at doing a good job at work ;-).

 

A FINAL TIP: IDENTIFY THE REAL PRIORITY

 

It all starts from setting your priorities. Most people don’t know which priority to set as first. I find it easy: take the one that adds the most value. I have seen people working on 10 sites at a time and my questions was: why don’t you focus on your top 2 earners and see if you have time left for the rest?

 

We have been putting a lot of projects on the shelf throughout the years for this reason. I don’t have the time to work on a super project? That’s not a problem, let’s put it on the shelf and work on a super project that is already working and generating money. In 2012, we had an insurance website project. We clearly don’t have the time to build it right now. So we just forgot about it and have focused on other money earners. This year, my main project is a membership website. Last year it was my book. You know what? I’m still selling 40 books per month after almost 9 months since we launched it.

 

So keep this in mind: choose what bring the most value as your priority. It’s not that complicated once you use this single rule, is it?

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April 22, 2013, 4:36 am

When the Hobby Becomes a Business

by: The Financial Blogger    Category: Alternative Income,Blogging,Business,Career

 

 

 

 

Who ever thought of making money out of their passion? Is it not the best financial scenario? Making money while you do something you truly enjoy. Most hobbies and passions require that you pay to enjoy them. If you can find a way where you can be paid to enjoy your hobbies, you have just found the Holy Grail! I’m not sure it’s true. A few weeks ago, I read a very interesting article about not turning your hobby into a money maker @ Retire By 40. Joe outlined a list of reasons why making money from your hobby isn’t as perfect as you may think.

 

A few years ago, I would have argued actively with him. I turned my blog into a business back in 2008. At that time, I saw the same thing as Joe: I can make money online. I can make money out of my hobby. Where I’m a bit different than him is that I started The Financial Blogger back in 2006 with this objective in mind: making money online.

 

Where It All Started

 

When I start writing my blog, I knew I could make money from it. My friend (who became my partner in this adventure) was already making money from his website. He made enough to pay for his tuition fees and go on a 6 months foreign exchange student program. He never had a summer job, he was simply working online a few hours per week from his bedroom.

 

Then, I started to do some research and found John Chow. He had the first “make money blogging” blog I followed. When I was telling people in the Personal Finance Blog niche (we were less than 100 at that time) that I was in to make thousands of dollars per month, they all told me that I would be lucky if I could make $200 monthly! I decided to continue nonetheless as I knew that other people were making money.

 

Then I Started To Love the Business

 

This is why I started blogging: to make money. I wanted to share my financial knowledge as I thought that most people don’t get the right advice from financial advisors and journalists. The second goal was to improve my English writing skills. But behind all that, I knew I could make money from this business.

 

What happened is that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write. I’ve always love writing and even thought of becoming a writer when I was a kid. When I realized that most writers are starving, I thought a career in the financial industry was a better idea ;-).

 

Slowly but surely, my passion for blogging and this whole “new world” started to grow inside of me. At that time, I was thinking about my blog non-stop. I used to get ideas at any time of the day and night and sent myself emails to keep track of them all. I developed a passion for building a business online.

 

At that point, I had reached the perfect balance: doing something I truly enjoy while making money from it. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect…

 

When The Passion Becomes a Job

 

I mentioned this on the blog already but 2012 was a crappy year for us. The combination of having a new (very demanding) job, not sleeping with our newborn, getting stuck under $10,000 of unexpected expenses plus getting kicked in the nuts by Google was a lot of downers in a very short time span.

 

My passion started to fade away and I temporarily lost the desire to work like a maniac on my blogs. I still liked the fact of having a company and running projects but it looked a lot like a job at one point. The obligation of writing weekly, the tracking of our income and expenses, the projection updates we are doing to make sure we are on track with our objectives… All that sounds a lot like a job vocabulary and not a hobby or a passion.

 

This was a rough period as I know I need this money in my budget. A good part of my overall income is derived from my online company now. It represents roughly 30% of my income; I just can’t let it go. But having a second job (on top of being a father of three!) seems just like a recipe for a burnout later on. It hurt to think that I needed to work on my company instead of wanting to.

 

Going Back to Basics

 

I can describe myself as a very difficult individual when it comes to work. I’m a real beast of productivity and do not fear completing humongous tasks within a ridiculous timeframe. However, I must be happy to do so. If I don’t have fun doing what I do, I become mediocre. I didn’t have the flame burning inside throughout 2012. This is when I started to question myself.

 

I had to go back to the reasons why I was having so much fun with my business and pulled them back to the top of my priority list. I love managing my business and seeing growth. Results are definitely the most inspiring factors for me. This is why I started to concentrate on how I can bring results to the table.

 

Cutting the crap, do what I love was the first thing I changed. I decided to write only the stuff that I want to write about. Too bad for Google and too bad if you don’t like it, I’m going to please myself with this blog!

 

Being part of a Master Mind Group was a clever move. I now have a weekly meeting with motivated people that help me bring results to the table. This is a true motivator for me.

 

Having a meeting with my partner was another great idea. Each year, we meet-up over the weekend to work on our company. We had a great discussion about the future of our blogs and our involvement. This has boosted my motivation through the roof.

 

Is it working?

 

It is! I’m feeling free to do what I like and this is probably the most important thing when you have a business or a hobby; never feel that you are forced to do something. This is probably the beginning of the end if you keep on to this route.

 

Do you find it difficult running your blog now that you are making money out of it? Is it changing anything to your writing style?

 

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