Each year, I identify personal goals that I’m going to work on throughout the year. I’m back with my “2014 edition”.
But first, let’s take a look at my 2013 goals and see how it went…
It’s the first time since I can remember that I didn’t do too well with my goals throughout the year. In fact, if I look at 2013, I feel somewhat like a big failure…
Surprise! Surprise! This didn’t happen. I worked really hard on reducing my expenses but this wasn’t enough. Then, my wife opened her daycare at home to earn more money. Finally, I sold my RX-8 (which I surprisingly don’t miss that much right now!)
While I made great efforts to both increase income and reduce spending, other factors came into play. Google had hit our online business severely over the past two years and making money online is harder than ever before. We shifted our focus to pay our corporate debts and significantly reduced any dividend or revenues paid to shareholders. This is why the daycare only served to replace this income temporarily lost in my budget. The problem is that the daycare started only in September whereas we stopped our revenues back in May of the same year.
I’m still waiting for a few numbers to update assets and my current net worth and debt levels but I should finish in a better position compared to the beginning of the year. And the most important part: I’ve definitely increased my income and reduced my spending budget for 2014.
The reason why I wanted to open a TFSA in 2013 was to start a fund to pay for private school. I have three young kids and I want all of them to go to private high school. I’ve already looked at the different options in our city and the best schools with the best sports/art/international programs are… private.
I’m happy to check this item off my list as my TFSA is not only opened but my account shows almost $900 at the end of the year. At this pace, I will have the first year completely covered once my oldest kid reaches high school. My goal is to increase my contribution each year so I have over $10,000 in this fund in four years. This would give me more than 2 years in advance (assuming the cost is about $4,000 per year). Over the next four years, I need to increase my bi-monthly contribution from $50 to $150 to be able to generate $4,000 each year to pay for this expense. The fund (the $10,000 or so) will cover for the years where two of my kids will be at private school at the same time. So far, the plan seems to be on the right track.
With my sites not generating any income I can withdraw, you probably figured that I failed to earn over 150K. My bonus wasn’t as high as expected for my second year at my new job but I’m still happy overall. I almost reached my objective as I made around $130K this year. I guess the good news with this story is that my personal income didn’t move, but my wife is now generating additional income for our household.
Next year, our household income will definitely break the 150K as I expect to make 150K myself. Therefore, our family revenues will probably be around 175K. Now we are talking about making some serious money!
And due to my most recent online projects, I will be able to withdraw some dividends out of it!
I don’t know if I can say this but I achieved this goal and then failed later on. I dropped from 193lbs to 182lbs during the summer. Then, for an unknown reason, I completely slacked on my training program and went back to… 198lbs as at December 31st!
Part of my plan to lose weight included running 500 miles over the year. The reason why I picked 500 miles was because I can track them on my treadmill . Running on average 10 miles per week and giving 2 weeks of buffer seemed like a challenge but feasible at the same time. I did run 501 miles in my year and I’m quite proud of it. But I noticed that this wasn’t enough to maintain the key point in losing weight: being consistent. The goal was “too easy” and this is why I was 30 miles in advance in September and slacked off.
2013 was frustrating and a year of adjustments. I didn’t feel like I accomplished much and sometimes it felt like I was losing an entire year to turn round and around like a dog running after its tail. But life is like a big ship; sometimes it takes time to make it turn 180 degrees.
I now feel that I’ve set the table for a great year in 2014. But the main difference between 2013 and 2014 will have to be consistency. If I work on a continuous basis instead of raising peaks here and there, I will be able to accomplish all of my goals.
On January 1st, 2015, I want to be able to declare that I’ve completely paid off my credit cards, personal and pool loans. This represents about 15K in debt. Once these are paid off, I will have over $400/month in free cash flow. This should be enough to accomplish my second goal.
If I want to fund my children’s education correctly, I need to increase my savings ability to $150 bi-weekly. In 2013, I started my journey with $50 bi-weekly. I want to double this amount towards the end of 2014. I will probably use my next salary increase in June to make it happen.
Hey! It’s the beginning of the year! So why not push ourselves out of the comfort zone??? By the end of 2014, I want to weigh under 180 lbs. The first thing I will do is to increase my running challenge from 500 miles to 550 miles. This will leave me no room for breaks as I will need to run 3 times a week consistently to make it happen.
If I can keep up with this pace over the year, I should be ready to run my first half marathon towards the end of the year; most likely in September or October. The most I ran in 2013 was 16.5km, a half marathon is 21km.
My oldest kid is a very good soccer player. This year, I hope he will make the competitive team in his first try. I’m also applying for the “coach position”. I’m not a soccer player, but I just love coaching kids while watching how they can progress and learn over a short period of time. The tryouts start in January for both my son and I. The goal is for both of us to make the team and have a wonderful summer!
This is more like a qualitative goal and it is very hard to determine what it truly means. I just noticed that I’ve been comfortably installed in my comfort zone for the past two years. Since I had my third child, I’ve put pretty much everything in my life on cruise control. I can say the results weren’t self-fulfilling and that I want and expect a lot more from life. Getting out of my comfort zone means acquiring clients in non-conventional ways (e.g. not through references, but becoming the king of cold calls and networking), becoming fit (the goal being not only to lose weight but being able to take my shirt off during the summer ), doing things I have never done before (like running a half marathon, coaching a competitive sport), etc. The idea here is to burst my bubble and do something that matters. I want to feel the fire burning inside of me…again.
Life is nothing if it’s not burning inside you.
Google+ Comments: 11 Read More
As a funny way to celebrate my 7th blogging anniversary, I took a one month sabbatical from blogging. In fact, it was more than a month; my last post was dated November 25th. I received many emails from other bloggers and long-time readers asking me what was wrong.
Was I sick?
Did I lose the interest to blog?
Can I keep up with my career, my kids and my blog at the same time?
Did I burn out?
None of the above.
We usually say that we take a break in order to come back fresh and stronger. In my case, this wasn’t the purpose either. It was a weird feeling as I just took a break because no interesting topics were crossing my mind. I didn’t feel like talking about my finances or business. For the first time, I thought that anything I had to write about was boring and didn’t bring any value. My last post was mentioned by Rob Carrick from the Globe & Mail and I thought it was a good idea to take a break.
I’ve had the habit of posting even if I didn’t have much to write about. When the inspiration is low, I used to kick myself and keep writing anyways. The show must go on and people must come back to my site and see fresh content. This is how I used to see it. On the other hand, if I don’t write interesting stuff, what’s the point of having people to come over to my site? To read boring posts as we have already read too many times in a day?
This is why I took a break – to avoid boring you.
First, this break was necessary so I could work on another project. A big project. I’ve been talking about it for a while but it’s finally up and running; I now have my membership website in place! I will tell you more about this in future posts as I have planned a whole series about this topic. I started with a soft launch in December and I’ve already exceeded my expectations. The site is already profitable (meaning I’ve covered both my costs in terms of investment and time worked on the site). To put this project together, I worked on it for the past four months, reviewed all the little details at least 5 times each to make it perfect and finally, concentrated all my efforts in the last month to execute the soft launch. I also had to plan my official launch… which is today (also more on that next week! Hahaha!).
Then, as this break wasn’t only about launching my first membership project. It was about giving a direction to project Y. If you have been following this blog for a while, you know how much I care about thinking about future goals. Each year, I set specific goals and work on them throughout the year. This is how I’ve managed to build a successful online business at the same time as being a father of three while pushing my career to higher levels. So between a game of battleship and going ice skating by the lake, I’ve setup my goals both personally and for my business.
I think taking a break from time to time is not only good for your brain as it gives you more time to think but it also provides you with a new perspective on your life. If you keep going all the time, it’s like running in the woods without looking at where you are going and where you have been. If you don’t know where you stand and still keep going, how will you know where you are heading?
And I’ll tell you a secret: I even took a break at work too! All right, not as long as one month. Most of the time, I didn’t even take a day off. But leaving early during a day of “unproductiveness” is ten times more efficient than continuing working when you are not concentrated and all you will produce is mediocre work.
This is what I suggest you do today: take a break! Take some time for yourself to think, to relax… and to play battleship hahahaha!
I’ll be back on Wednesday with more valuable stuff. Don’t worry, I’m back for good ;-DGoogle+ Comments: 9 Read More
Most people I know deal with a financial advisor. It makes total sense since we can’t be good at everything and personal finance is probably one of the most important things in your life. If your finances are not in order, you won’t be able to do what you like and financial problems often lead to high levels of stress. This is why we all look for a financial advisor to help us take care of our personal finances. As is the case with any other job, some financial advisors are awesome while others are clowns. Let’s just say that it’s harder to find a good advisor than most people expect!
We are often stuck with very few options when it’s time to find our financial advisor. We either go to the bank we do business with and pick the guy or the gal who’s available or we ask our entourage for a referral. You may have been solicited as well by people who promise that they are better than who you have right now. It might be true (if it’s me calling…lol!) but how can you really tell the difference between a professional and a clown?
The answer is easier than what you think…For each industry, there are some “secret facts” known by those who work in the field and may be ignored by others. If you want to know which car breaks down more often, don’t ask the dealership, ask a trusty mechanic. It’s the same thing in the financial industry; the professional will tell you about his secrets…
The first question you should ask your advisor is how much he earns and what pays him the most. Money drives everything, once you know how your advisor is paid, then you know how he can help you… or waste your time.
If you have money sitting in a cash or money market account and you have an outstanding debt at 6%, sound financial advice would be to use your cash to pay off your debt. Most advisors will ignore this principle since each time you withdraw money from their your account, they lose money.
I don’t believe the best financial advisor is the cheapest one. Your mortgage rate may be higher or your banking fees might be competitive but not the cheapest in town. However, if your financial advisor picks up the phone to advise you about finance without you asking for anything; this guy worth every extra penny you paid. Ask your advisor why he is more expensive – the right answer is “because I am worth it”.
A good financial advisor won’t be afraid to tell you that a part of your portfolio (or even the whole investment) is well invested even if it’s with a competitor. The point is that you ask him to be honest; if you are doing the right things he must be able to tell you.
If you didn’t know yet, one of the best secrets of the industry is that insurance policies sold are incredibly profitable for the advisor (and his firm). Ask him how profitable the insurance you purchased from him is… and wait for his answer.
I’ve ran into too many insurance agents selling insurance based on the clients’ fears. Insurance needs are real, fear isn’t. Therefore, ask for a realistic proposal with numbers that make sense for you. I once saw a permanent life policy of $300K for a client who was sitting on $1M cash in his company…. What are the odds he needs an additional 300K upon his death if the company is already full of cash?
Regardless of which firm your advisor works for, he doesn’t call all the shots. It’s better for him to be upfront and tell you that a credit department or a compliance board will have the final say in your application. It’s better if he’s transparent.
Yes, mutual funds can be seen as expensive and they are if you compare yourself to a DIY investor who picks his own ETFs. However, when we make this analogy, we don’t consider the time and passion invested by a DIY investor to manage his portfolio. If you ask any mechanic about an oil change, they will all tell you it’s stupid to pay for that since you can do it yourself. Well, when you don’t want to take care of something, you might want to pay a professional to do it for you. This is why mutual funds can be good for investors who don’t want to manage their own portfolio.
Some advisors don’t have any penalties attached to their investments or mortgages while others charge a final bill if you ever leave. This is important to know the complete structure of your personal finance and to understand if you are attached to your advisor (and his company) or not. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but you need to know before your sign-up!
I believe personal finance is more personal than financial. Therefore, the most important thing when you deal with a financial advisor is to be able to trust him and get along with his way of working. A simple question that will tell you a lot about the guy/gal in front of you is “why do you do this job?”.
Here’s my answer:
Because I love the stock market, I love to talk about finance and love even more when I can teach finance to other people.
This will tell you if he will stay in his job or not!
Readers, do you have any good questions you would like to ask your financial advisor? What do you do before you can trust him?Google+ Comments: 10 Read More
If you ever thought of selling something, you’ll know what I’m talking about…
I have quietly mentioned on TFB that I’m working on a membership website of late. I didn’t put too much emphasis on it simply because I didn’t want to bug you with my project that has nothing to do with making money online or becoming an entrepreneur.
However, if you have ever thought of selling something, regardless if it’s on the web or not, I am now offering you my thoughts about the incredibly long process behind any product launch. I now understand why big companies spend millions on a marketing team to coordinate their launches!
Not only is it a lot of work (that you can imagine) but the worst part is to wait through days, weeks and months of working on details before the launch. This is what is truly killing me from the inside out. It’s like being pregnant and ready to give birth at 9 months but waiting 4 more weeks before you see your baby!
One thing I’ve learned during the process is that having a product is good, but building a great package and finding the right audience matters more than everything else. Anybody can come up with a product, literally! We all can change the world from our basements with a brilliant idea.
But the first question you must ask yourself is: is my idea useful for people? It is clearly useful for you since you thought of it, but this doesn’t mean it’s useful for others! In order to answer this question, your idea must answer one of the following:
#1 Takes care of a pain
#2 Improves one’s life
#3 Alleviates a fear
To be honest, pretty much everything you can think of will answer one of these “three pillars of a great product”. The point is to package it the right way.
The best example I can think of is the “Post-It” invention by 3M. Post-it stickers were invented after a failure to create effective glue. Instead of throwing this failure in the trash, 3M decided to package it differently. We all like post-it stickers that we can move from one place to another. However, we would never buy a sticker with poor quality glue that doesn’t stick around. This is why we needed to be told that the post-it was made to be moved. This is how to package an idea.
Then, you need to find your potential clients. Don’t think that everybody around you will buy your product. It’s not true! In fact, most people will likely not buy your product. As I mentioned earlier, my next product is not in line with TFB main topics. I will still make you aware it exists but my conversion rate should be very low.
It takes time to build an audience or a list of potential clients. If you don’t build your list first, you may waste a lot of time creating a product that doesn’t meet anybody’s needs. This is why I started with my idea and created a landing page with a specific mailing list subscription option. If you want to look at it, you can see it here.
It is obvious that I already have an audience to launch my product; I run several financial websites! But I wanted to make sure that I have people interested in a paid site that will provide them with information. This is why I created this new list and asked people to register for it if they are interested in hearing about my idea.
I didn’t want to spam my regular readers with a series of emails mentioning my concept and how I intend to package it unless they clearly tell me that they want to hear about it. This was the purpose of making a new list apart from all the others. I sent 4 emails so far to this list. If you have a mailing list, you know that a good average opening rate is around 30%. Here are my numbers:
This list has over 500 subscribers. Therefore, roughly 350 people opened and read these emails attentively. This is a very important sign that my package and what I offer will be welcomed by these readers. Another interesting stat is the 200+ emails I’ve received back from these readers commenting and asking questions… Definitely, I can tell that I’m close to something good now!
If you want to know how I build my mailing list and email funnels, read this series and you’ll know all my secrets.
But I’m not ready to launch yet. There are too many details left to be taken care of. The idea of your product is important and, the packaging is even more important. However, all these little details supporting your product need to be taken care of thoroughly. Don’t think you can launch and then fix them along the way.
Each time I think I’m done with one section, I ask my partner and VA to take a look around and give me feedback. Each time they come up with something new and I have to go back to the drawing board and apply some modifications.
Pictures used, navigation process, charging methods, software used, update rules, writing methodology (font, color, size, etc). These are all details that need to be perfect. I’ve spent several hours creating my email series and organizing the launch date.
I won’t lie, taking care of the details sucks. It’s not fun and you don’t get anything great out of it. No money, no traffic, not even a “thank you”. You just have to fix everything so the day you open your doors to the world, everything is perfect!
Having a deadline for any project is probably one of the most crucial parts of your launch plan. Without a deadline, you won’t do anything. You need to commit to a higher level to make sure things go along the way.
I’ve personally committed to launch my project for December 2013. At first, it was just a vague idea of launching a membership website. Then, when I came back from vacation in late August, I realized that not much had been done and that I would not be able to finish everything for December. This is why the deadline was so important; it creates the sense of urgency.
I went a little bit further by creating my mailing list and the email series. I’ve committed to myself of sending 1 email every two weeks. This technique is being used to keep the momentum about my project going, giving an update while slowly selling my concept. At one point, these people should be as ready as me for the launch!
I must also go forward with my project faster if I want to make it a success. Imagine the opposite; imagine that I wait another 6 months to launch my site? I would probable get close to ZERO sales!
On the other hand, deadlines are deadlines, nothing more. The world won’t end if you don’t make it. The key is to commit yourself to a high level so you need to work on your project every day. Then, if you miss your deadline by a few days or weeks, it’s not the end of the world either.
I’m given myself a small buffer (don’t tell my partner! Hahaha!) of launching in January instead of December. If I can’t launch in the first week of December, I’ll probably launch during the first week of January. I guess people will be more interested in buying gifts than buying a membership website subscription during the Holidays!
But my hopes are still to launch on December 1st and make myself a real gift for the Holidays!
The most important thing I’ve learned during this process is that patience is key. If you get too impatient and want to launch right away, you won’t be doing things the right way. You will likely miss some key details and sales won’t be as good.
I want to make sure that I’ve done 100% of what I could do prior to the launch. At that point, I know that I couldn’t have done things differently and will be satisfied with the results.
Do you have a product that you sell? How did (do) you plan your launch?Google+ Comments: 3 Read More
Back in September, I was just coming back from my vacation when my debt level surged. This was a result of a bad combination of investment in the home daycare, clothing for kids, activities for kids, municipal taxes and my credit card statement from my vacation.
At that time, I’ve thought of selling my beloved RX-8 for sale and rely on 1 car only. For a family of 5, living with one car might not be the easiest thing. With today’s crazy life, can you really live only with one car for a family of 5?
Since you know that I’m pretty far from being frugal, you can imagine how hard it was to put the sale sign on my car as the first move…
When I first thought of selling my car back in September, I was truly torn. Don’t laugh, I really liked my car! You may or may not understand the following but this is how I see it: my car is a statement of my standing. In my industry, it is important to shine out. If I come to visit a client with my RX-8, I already make a good impression. My chances of closing are better with an uncommon car.
I didn’t think of that aspect of my job when I purchased the car though. I actually wanted a sport car to do the 1 hour drive to work each morning and evening. But then I realize something; most of my clients were talking about my car when I met them. It became some kind of magnet. They were curious about the engine (it’s a different technology) and wanted to know how fast it could go (duh!).
So by selling my car, I wasn’t just selling 4 wheels and a steering, I was selling a part of my unique selling proposition. I was selling my “status”.
On the other side, I also kept piling up car maintenance bills for the past 18 months and this was getting on my nerve big time. For what the car cost me, it became ridiculous to keep it to maintain some psychological status.
But what made me put my money where my mouth is was another factor. For three weeks in a row, my car was gently sunbathing in my driveway. Before selling my car, I’ve tried not to use it for three weeks… and it works! Then, I came to this shocking truth:
So I took the decision of getting rid of my sport car. I know… it’s about time! But on the other side, I wasn’t convinced we could live as a family of five with only one vehicle. My car was expensive, but using my SUV only could lead to some schedule complication.
My daughter has swimming classes along with ice skating. My son plays soccer. I often get to work during one evening per week. How can I manage all schedules within using one car?
Funny enough, this question worried me a lot but answers were very easy to find. We put most kids activities over Saturday and Sunday morning and we kept a tight schedule on our fridge to make sure everybody knows where they are at anytime. Worst comes to worst, we can always take a cab and pay $10 for the ride. This is a lot cheaper than paying for winter tires, oil changes, gasoline and car insurance!
But instead of selling 1 car, I’ve sold both of them! Since I’ve made the decision of keeping 1 vehicle, I wanted to make sure I didn’t get stuck with problems. I can’t afford losing time at the garage and I don’t really want to put more money in car maintenance.
By selling both cars, I had the possibility of buying a brand new car with the same monthly payment. I’ve extended my loan to another 7 years (I had 2 remaining on the Tribute), but now that I don’t use my car much, I probably won’t reach over 150,000 km within that period. This will leave this new car in a very good shape for the time being.
On the other side, I’m saving money on car maintenance and time. Since I don’t have another car, saving time spent at the garage was crucial.
After two months of using a single family car and I tell that we spent the huge amount of… $10 for a cab! We are currently saving on all car maintenance along with car insurance. It has helped our current budget and generated more cash flow to pay off our immediate debts (credit cards and personal loans).
Now that we have cut on several expenses and generated extra income from the daycare, I’m seeing a positive impact on our monthly budget. Our debt repayments increase month after month and I am now looking to cash my bonus in January to make a big debt payment!
What do you think of this strategy? Would you have sold both cars like I did or kept the old Tribute with only 2 years worth of payment remaining?Google+ Comments: 5 Read More
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