How Much Money Do You Need To Be Rich?

Ask the average American on the street if they are in favor of raising taxes on “the rich,” and invariably, you’ll receive a “yes” answer. They will cite tax loopholes, fairness concerns, greed of the wealth, a stalled economy, and virtually any other reason to make their case. Of course the rich should pay more in taxes. Wealth is evil and should be punished!

The problem is that no two people are likely to agree with a definition of “rich.” Ask an attorney if he is rich, and he will likely say “no.” Ask the same question of a surgeon, and she will answer in kind. But to a city bus driver, the attorney and the surgeon are rich beyond imagination. And to  the widowed mother of three children who works at the local diner, the bus driver is surely living a lavish life!

According to the Washington Post, a Pew Research Center Poll revealed that 54 percent of Americans favor raising taxes on the rich to expand programs for the poor. The problem is that fewer and fewer Americans are able to identify whether they are rich; they think a “rich” person is someone who earns more money than they do.

Side note: I once heard a joke that the ticket to becoming rich is earning more money than your brother-in-law!

The Washington Post provides further intriguing data on the matter straight from the minds of Americans:

According to a 2013 Washington Post survey, people who live in households making less than $50,000 say that an income of $200,000 would make you rich, while people with incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 say you’d need $260,000 to be rich. And people making over $100,000 say they wouldn’t feel rich unless they were making a cool half a million dollars a year — or more.

A majority of people desire to be rich, but what exactly does "rich" mean? Is the key to becoming rich tied to income, assets, and possessions?


Americans are clearly divided on this issue, and perhaps for good reason. After all, a number of factors are at play in the “how much is really rich” discussion, including family size, location, expenses, level of consumer debt obligations, amount of savings and investments, and so on.

Yet the United States tax code is calculated and cold when it comes to many of the aforementioned factors. Barring unforeseen variances, a married couple earning $50,000 will still pay the same amount of federal taxes in Manhattan as they would in rural Tennessee. The primary difference is they might feel rich living in Tennessee. 

So is “richness” forever destined to be defined in an ambiguous, subjective manner?


I vividly recall a family discussion from my childhood regarding the supposed “riches” of a distant family friend. One family member reasoned that this friend, a respected businessman, must be rich due to his sizable income. Another member of the family supported her hypothesis by citing the friend’s large home on the lake, fleet of luxury vehicles, and designer wardrobe.

As I child, I simply nodded my head in agreement and wonder. As an adult, I see the truth.

Income, no matter how high, does not make a person rich. Possessions, no matter how numerous and luxurious, do not make a person rich.

Consider two fictitious people. We’ll call them Charles and Leonard. Chuck earns $100,000 per year, and Lenny earns $150,000. Lenny may appear to be the richer of the two, but his 6 bedroom home, BMW, and multi-millionaire lifestyle comprised of weekend trips to the casino and multiple rounds for the entire bar are sucking him dry. Meanwhile, boring Charlie spends only $45,000 per year, lives in a modest town home, and drives a Toyota Corolla. Now who is rich?

Sadly, most Americans have defined richness in a backwards manner. We put Lenny on a glorified pedestal and lament Chuck’s evident misfortune. In doing so, we have it all wrong.

As Paula Pant is famous for stating, you can afford anything, but not everything. Being rich doesn’t mean having all the things. It means having money and freedom to buy all the things. Richness is not all about how much money you earn; it is about how much you keep. Richness is not all about how much you spend; it is about how you spend it.


This isn’t the first piece written about how much money it takes to be rich, and it won’t be the last. But this will be one of the few articles which rejects stating solid income and asset amounts as a threshold for being rich. The simple reason?

I believe anyone can be rich at any income.

At the end of the day, the only person who determines whether you are rich is you. Others can point, gossip, sneer, and conjecture all they wish, but it will only impact you if you allow it.

If you want to be rich, regardless of your income, it’s up to you to set about changing your mindset and actions. Most “rich” people have mastered the act, and you can learn from them.

1. Stop caring what other people think of you

If you care what other people think of you, you will have a difficult time becoming or even feeling rich. A desire to impress others is a sure fire path to financial mediocrity. Be a kind, caring person to the best of your ability, but don’t allow others’ feelings to impact your finances.

2. Think more about what you have and less about what you lack

Are you a glass half-empty or glass half-full person? I aim to be neither. Though it is hard, I try to navigate my life by a “full glass” mindset. Even a glass half-full mindset leaves you wanting more. And the trouble is that even when you do get more, the glass perpetually remains half full. Learn to practice gratitude for what you do possess.

3. Know your most precious asset

Ask the world’s billionaires to pick one asset which they covet most, and I believe most would say “time.” In a world of great inequality, time is the great equalizer. Use time well and you can make a lasting impact; waste time, and it is gone forever.

Most people would benefit from the eye-opening experience of charting their time in fifteen minute blocks for an entire week. I have done so for a few days in the past, and the results were humbling. The ways you choose to spend your time indicate what is most important to you.

By building habits, routines, and structures into your daily life, it is possible to unlock the full potential of the time which is available to you.

4. Save first, spend what is left

While the first three action steps reside in your psyche, the final step is as practical as they come: rather than spending first and saving whatever money is left, save first and allow yourself to only spend what remains. This is a sure fire way to grow the gap between the two most important numbers for financial success: your net income and your net expenses.


French designer Coco Chanel said, “There are people who have money and there are people who are rich.” According to Benjamin Franklin, “Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor.” These two anecdotes strike a powerful chord. They speak to the power of the human mind and spirit. Ultimately, it is up to individual to change her mindset and take action to build a rich life.

What does it mean to be “rich” in today’s world? How do you define it?


The Finance Superhero Rules for Car Buying

Let me be the first to say that I enjoy cars. You won’t catch me standing in my driveway admiring our two vehicles, but I appreciate them. They are reliable, cosmetically appealing, and mechanically-sound. We could drive two brand-new cars if we really wanted to do so, but we hold a more conservative view on car buying.

When it comes to car buying, be sure you are not fooled by myths of status, reliability, and safety, and spend in line with your annual income.

The Purpose of Cars

Among many, this approach to car buying stems from an understanding of the fundamental purposes of cars. In no particular order, I believe they are as follows:

1. Function as people movers – transports people from point A to point B.

2. Support income opportunities – provide transportation to and from work.

3. Support recreational opportunities – provide transportation for recreational pursuits*

*Note: Though I note this as a fundamental purpose of cars, I believe that significant financial difficulties overshadow the need for recreation.

In my experience, purposes beyond those listed above cease to be fundamental; they are what many people would call luxury. 

Ulterior Interior Motives for Car Spending

We’ve all been there before. You call out for pizza delivery on a Friday evening, and your piping hot pepperoni pie arrives 45 minutes later. In a puzzling twist, the delivery driver pulls into your driveway in a shimmering, new-ish Lexus. You pay for your pizza, instinctively tell the driver to keep the change, and then immediately find yourself wondering if he really needed the tip or even the delivery job. And then you start wondering, “Why don’t I drive a shimmering, new-ish Lexus?”

Thus begins the battle between the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other shoulder. The rational part of you is quick to answer this question. “We don’t choose cars based upon their value as status symbols. My car is just as reliable as that Lexus. It compares well in terms of safety ratings.” But the irrational part fires back with an emotionally-charged response. “But think of what that car could do for your status. You’d be the talk of the block and the envy of everyone at the office. And wouldn’t a new car be more reliable and safer for the precious, fragile children? You can’t expect little Johnny and Susy to risk their lives riding around in a 2008 Honda Accord, can you?!?!”

It’s easy to laugh at the previous rationale from the devil, but the average person has had many of those same thoughts, particularly when contemplating the purchase of a new car. When emotion enters the equation, fear, pride, and a sense of duty tip the scales and allow people to make excuses for the purchase of a car.

Consider the following motives:

Status – It can be very difficult to drive one of the “worst” cars at the office. I know, because I’ve been there. In one two year period, I drove my 2000 Ford Taurus for three embarrassing, painful years. Younger colleagues surely wondered why I couldn’t “afford” a nicer car. In hindsight, driving this vehicle was one of the smartest financial decisions I have ever made. Buying a nicer car may have improved my perception of my status among my colleagues at the time, but it wouldn’t have helped me win with money. In fact, you’ll rarely win with money if others’ opinions drive your decisions.

Reliability – Blame the auto makers and their television commercials for this one. We’ve been conditioned to believe that an “old” car is a ticking time bomb, ready to implode and stop working at any given moment. Likewise, we believe that newer cars cannot possibly have this kind of problem. In reality, a well-maintained vehicle of any age will boast superior reliability.

Safety – Blame the commercials for this one, too. You know, the commercials that guilt-trip you into believing you are The World’s Worst Parent if you don’t drive your child around in a full-armored Panzer. Never mind the fact that you’re driving with a latte in one hand, sending Snap Chats with the other, and cranking Ed Sheeran’s latest so-so song at a dangerous decibel level. Yup, your sedan is officially a death trip for you and your family.

Children – Sometimes I think it would be fun to be a car salesman. I would sit at my desk, slowly sipping on my coffee, waiting for a family with a young child to come in. After silencing my “SUV-buyer-radar,” I would easily tap into the average parents’ desire to provide “a better life” for little baby Emma and laugh my way all the way to the bank.

Harsh? Perhaps. But in all but the most extreme and unfortunate circumstances (special needs, disability), an SUV is unnecessary until move beyond two-kiddo-territory. Kids will survive riding around in a sedan, and they’ll be OK without a drop-down Blu-ray player, Dolby Digital surround sound, and dual zoned climate control. I promise.

Maintenance – I have actually heard people rationalize endless leases and perpetual new car buying under the guise that they are “bad at maintenance.” My response is a typical a nicer version of the question, “So you’re bad at driving your car to a mechanic?” In 2016 and beyond, unless you’re a true “car guy,” you probably shouldn’t be doing your own maintenance beyond oil changes, brakes, and tire rotations, anyway.

Smart Methods for Car Buying

Once you’ve talked yourself out of a myriad of excuses for why you “need” a ridiculous car, you can begin to examine your true needs. Ironically, this begins with revisiting the bold categories above. Is there a particular reason that you truly need a specific vehicle (i.e. will you be fired if you drive a clunker?) or model year? Will you be driving primarily around town and racking up local miles or spend a bulk of your time on the freeway? What weather conditions will you face during your regular commutes? How many people will you transport on a regular basis? What are the costs of routine maintenance for the vehicle relative to the mileage you expect to drive?

Notice that there was scarcely a hint of emotion in the previous questions. When aiming to follow a smart method for car buying, there is rarely room for emotion.

Cash is King

When it comes time to buy a vehicle, the most preferred method is the cash purchase. Many people will argue otherwise, which I counter with the following facts:

*A cash purchase is the only one to ensure that you don’t continue to pay others for the right to drive your car after already paying others for the right to own your car.

*A 0% APR auto loan is almost a farce. Trust me, automakers and dealers aren’t in the business of selling you a vehicle and making $0 profit.

*Every interest payment you make to others, no matter how small, is a red blemish on your overall net worth picture.

Big Down Payment + Small Loan = Instant Equity

In the interest of honest, full disclosure, I financed my most recent vehicle purchase, a certified 2013 Hyundai Sonata, utilizing this method. Why? I was in a position to wipe out my other debt, my student loans, in short order, but I couldn’t do so and pay cash for the new vehicle. This vehicle was a true need, based upon our non-emotional answers to the above questions. By taking on a small loan at a very low interest rate, we were able to eliminate higher-interest debt. By tossing in a sizable portion of cash, we created instant equity to mitigate against the effects of depreciation.

What Can I Afford?

Whether you choose one of the above options when buying a vehicle or choose to finance a significant portion of the purchase, you have yet to avoid the biggest mistake of all when it comes to car buying: tying up too much of your annual income in vehicles which rapidly lose their value.

In order to win with money and ensure that do not become “car poor,” I recommend finding your place on the chart below and adopting the recommendations listed by income level.

When it comes to car buying, be sure you are not fooled by myths of status, reliability, and safety, and spend in line with your annual income.
Recommended Car Buying Figures By Income Level

If you earn beyond $200,000 per year, I recommend remaining at a maximum allowed spending figure of $45,000 until you reach a net worth of at least $1 million. Even if you are not financially independent at this stage, loosening the purse strings a bit will not be highly consequential.

Final Recommendations

The car buying process is not one to be entered into lightly. Do your research, consider the cost of insurance and ongoing routine maintenance, particularly for foreign and luxury vehicles, and above all, be sure that you find a vehicle which will meet your needs without drastically exceeding them.

What are your rules for car buying? Are these rules too stringent? Too relaxed? Just right?

How to Set Better Financial Goals

Today’s post originally appeared on FinancialJiuJitsu, a fine blog hosted by Dave and Don. If you haven’t already done so, check out their recent guest post on FinanceSuperhero and visit their blog.

In order to set better financial goals, ensure that you are asking the right questions. Plotting your course also begins with understanding the present.

The Problem With Goals

In today’s fast-paced world, we want it all and we want it right now. Whether it is experiences or possessions we seek, we are in a hurry to satiate our desires. Each new experience provides momentary relief, until we begin craving the next big thing. So we quickly set new goals after achieving others.

This is not necessarily a good or bad thing on its own merit. Goals are great, and we all should aim for progress. After all, if you aim for nothing, you just may hit it. However, in an effort to better ourselves through a perpetual growth-mindset, we have uprooted contentment from our lives in alarming fashion.

I’ll be the first to admit that when I find myself in an unhappy mood or place in life, it is because I am not progressing. Tony Robins suggests that happiness is rooted in progress, and I am beginning to think that he is correct.

However, it would be an oversimplification to state “progress = happiness.” I’m no mathematician, but it seems a better equation might be “progress + contentment = happiness.” Yet the balance between progress and contentment can be very difficult to navigate.

Most of us don’t try to manage this balance, instead opting to chase the next achievement on the horizon. In chasing “the next,” we are aiming for target. But is the target always meaningful, worthy, or worthwhile?

Chasing the Wrong Goals

Last week, I started a third round of co-facilitating of Financial Peace University, Dave Ramsey’s popular personal finance course. In the opening lesson, Ramsey makes light of a road trip he was on with his wife. Ramsey was speeding along on the freeway at 75 mph, as the story goes, when his wife pointed out that they had been traveling in the wrong direction the entire time. “Yes, but we’re making great time,” Ramsey retorted.

Our goals are often just as misguided as Ramsey’s road trip toward the wrong destination. We become consumed by the efficient pursuit of our goals we give too little thought to the final destination. After all, the end destination is far more important than the journey itself, in most cases.

The Right Balance

So where does our propensity for chasing targets speedily and chasing the wrong goals intersect? Often, there is a cause-and-effect relationship.

We would rather be chasing something rather than taking the time to figure out what is most worth chasing. In this sense, perhaps our goals are sometimes misguided.

How to Set Better Financial Goals

Ultimately, the path toward setting better goals is rooted in understanding what we wish to achieve. This sounds so simple, yet we are all guilty of aiming at the wrong target from time to time. Sometimes the mistake is discovered early enough, and other times far too late. This can be especially true with financial goals.

I recommend asking yourself the following questions and exploring the answers in an in-depth manner in order to set better goals.

*What are your current financial goals? List both long and short-term goals.

*What are your primary values?

*Do your current financial goals align with your values?

*Do your short-term financial goals align with your long-term financial goals? Lack of alignment may be indicative of problems.

*How do you measure progress with regard to financial goals? Do you cut corners to achieve progress?

*What new goals are indicated by my list of values? Which existing goals should they replace, if any?

Admittedly, some of these questions are easier to answer than others. My wife and I are working through the answers to these questions right now, as we anticipate that some of our goals may be changing a bit in the next few years.

By asking ourselves these tough questions and engaging in an honest dialogue, we are increasing our odds of pursuing the right goals, i.e. the goals which are right for us. As time presses onward, these questions and the ever-changing answers will provide us with a framework to wisely manage the components of our financial picture.

Of course, plotting a course to where you would like to go begins with an accurate understanding of your current financial situation. For this reason, we use Personal Capital on a regular basis. Personal Capital is the best FREE tool to monitor your entire financial outlook in one central location. If you don't have an account set-up at this time, I invite you to do so by following this handy link.

How do you establish your financial goals? Have you ever experienced frustration in goal-setting?

A Life of Excess is a Life of Weakness

I spent half of last week in the city which is the poster child for a life of excess: Las Vegas, Nevada. This was my first trip to Sin City, as it is called, and my wife and I had a good time.

We didn’t gamble (gasp!) or stay up all night (blasphemy!). We enjoyed our kind of vacation, which means we spent a very un-FinanceSuperhero-like amount of money on meals and shows. We had fun and paid for the trip with cash. It was relaxing.

However, if you’ve been reading articles on this site for a while, you know that every moment for me is a cerebral experience which leads to critical thought and analysis.

It is human nature to believe and act as if a life of excess will make us happy. In reality, living a life of excess often leads to exactly the opposite.

Over the course of three days and nights, I took in the sights, sounds, and smells around me and learned a lot about the world. I reclined on a plush, poolside chaise lounge and observed other resort guests joyfully playing black jack at one of several swim-up bars. In the afternoon, I marveled at other vacationers’ massive 50 ounce margaritas as they passed us on the street. And at dinner, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere as patrons dined on creations by chefs Gordon Ramsey, Bobby Flay, and others.

In the midst of this vacation, in which I was supposed to be enjoying time off from work and letting loose, I couldn’t help but notice a prominent trend: Excess did not make me as happy as I thought it would, and by all indications, it didn’t make other people happy, either.

While laying by the pool, I didn’t feel any happier than normal. In fact, by the third day of vacation, I began to resent rest and relaxation. After enjoying a couple over-sized pina coladas myself, the novelty lost its allure. And by the time we sat down for breakfast on our last day of vacation, there was little discernible difference between the food I was supposed to be savoring and a ho-hum bowl of Cheerios.

Others did not appear immune to the effects of excess. The enthusiasm and smiles from the same group of folks cavorting at the swim-up bar had strangely vanished just a few days later. Sunday morning in Las Vegas showcased a palpable difference in energy and happiness, and it wasn’t just because half of the guests on the strip were hungover from a night of partying into the wee hours of the morning.

Near the end of the trip, I grasped the reality of the situation:

It is human nature to believe and act as if a life of excess will make us happy. In reality, living a life of excess often leads to exactly the opposite.

This trip wasn’t the first time I experienced this phenomenon, and I’m sure you’ve experienced it for yourself, too. If we’re honest with ourselves, we feel the effects of “the letdown” following the excess of holidays, birthdays, and even weekends. It hits us after our favorite team wins a championship, our children get married, and we get that big promotion. It’s that nagging voice in our heads which asks, “OK, what’s next?”

So why exactly does a life of excess, or even fleeting moments of indulgence, fail to satiate our desires and make us happy? Why does dry-aged steak begin to taste like ground round after only a few days? Why can’t we seem to reach a lasting state of fulfillment?

Our outlook on happiness is all wrong.

The Roots of Excess

For centuries, man kind has toiled away to develop a laundry list of modern conveniences which are supposed to simplify life, make living easier, and increase happiness. Yet in many ways, we are more miserable than ever before.  These modern “conveniences” have relegated many of us to the role of consumer, while life experience and plenty of research show that producers are happier.

We have raised the bar to unsustainable levels. In doing so, we have removed the elements of competition, growth, progress, and striving for something new. This leaves few avenues by which we can seek fulfillment, so we look to food, entertainment, or perhaps the bottle. And we’re befuddled when these pursuits don’t provide lasting happiness.

Happiness brought on by a life of excess is only temporary. We might be happy for a short time after moving into that new house with two bathrooms for everyone or buying that new watch on Amazon, but that happiness will fade.

On face value alone, things are things and experiences are experiences. Most are neither intrinsically good nor bad. Strangely, excess has a way of transforming neutral things into bad things. It transforms what may otherwise be good things into weakness.

When you buy a five ton, gas-guzzling SUV in order to drive your two kids to school and back on paved roads, your excess is weakness. When you swing through a drive-through for a burger and fries when you have ingredients for a far more delicious meal at home, your excess is weakness. When you go on a shopping binge at Lularoe online, your excess is weakness.

I’m not advocating for stoicism or minimalism in this space. I am calling for moderation.

The Benefits of Moderation

Ditching a life of excess and adopting a life of moderation is not easy. The desire to keep up with the Joneses, the fear of missing out, and common insecurities trick us into believing that excess is the key to happiness.  Our minds may realize otherwise, but our hearts are deceiving.

By choosing to embrace moderation rather than a life of excess, we can enjoy the following benefits:

*The ability to enjoy experiences at face value
*The adoption of realistic expectations
*Greater fulfillment and gratitude for what you already possess
*Increased likelihood that you will give and help others. An excess mindset prompts most people to horde wealth like a pack rat. Moderation, on the other hand, encourages people to exercise all of the benefits of money, including helping others. After all, if you’re not generous with a dime out of a dollar, how will you be generous when your net worth reaches one million dollars?

Next steps

If you find yourself clinging to hope that reaching “the next step” is going to bring you happiness, reflect and consider whether you are currently living a life of excess. If you continue to search for happiness and fulfillment in all the wrong places, you will continue to be unhappy and unfulfilled.

Roll up your sleeves, get to work, and fulfill a purpose. It is in these moments that I often find fulfillment and happiness, and I believe it will work for you. Ditch a few of life’s excesses, get out of your comfort zone, and experience all that life has to offer.

How do you measure happiness? Is your vision of happiness tied to excess? What makes you most happy?

Should I Go to Grad School? Start by Asking the Right Questions

Today’s post – Should I Go to Grad School? – is contributed by Paul Andrews over at The Code to Riches, a website dedicated to making personal finance as interesting/funny as possible.

Should I go to grad school? The answer to this question may be more complex than you think, as it involves a number of factors.

Your 20’s are/will be littered with an insufferable amount of annoying questions that society will rain down upon you like a storm of toads.  “When are you going to settle down?”, “Why haven’t you found a nice guy/girl?”, “Why haven’t you proposed yet?”, “You’re going to take a year off and do WHAT?!”, “You really should do X because I know of someone who did that and apparently a singular anecdote is enough to constitute valid advice…” and the list goes on.  And of those societal pressures, there’s one that actually has some merit.  You will, at some point, ask yourself the question, “Should I go to grad school?”

After all, you’ve heard all about the statistics about how much more money you’ll make.  You’re still a relatively young grasshopper, and should be able to reap the benefits for another 30 years during your career.  And you’re not ashamed to admit that you’d feel like a cool ass muthuh fuckin’ baller with a J.D., MBA, or PhD at the end of your name.  But with the tons of different degrees you can get at the literally THOUSANDS of schools around this country, how exactly do you go about answering, “Should I go to grad school?”

That’s where I come in, my darlings.

Today is all about giving you a solid framework so you know exactly how to evaluate your options when it comes to grad school.  By the end of this epic anthology article you will be able to answer

  • What degrees make sense financially?
  • Is now a good time for me to pursue another degree?
  • Will this degree help give me what I want out of life?

The Basic Framework


Let’s figure this out…

In light of the fact that I’m a personal finance blogger, I’m going to make this framework very similar to any other investment that I would make.  Here are the three things we need to make sure that our educational investment is sound?

  • What resources are being put in? – You need to be 110% aware of ALL the resources you’re putting into getting your degree. Like you should obsess over this more than a troop of 16 year-old girls obsessing over pumpkin-spiced anything’s, more than the gym-douchebag who’s more focused on looking at himself than actually working out, more than Quagmire about… well, I think you get the point.
  • What resources will be put out? – What exactly will you get out of your degree? Will you attend Yale and become part of the Skull and Bones Society?  Will you attend your local state school in order to not dive into an Olympic-sized swimming pool of debt?
  • Soft Factors – We can all sit here and pretend like this shit doesn’t matter, but I don’t write for robots; I write for peeps. Will job you get with your degree make you happy? Will you be fulfilled by the track your degree sets you on? Will it allow you to jettison all over the world and be a veritable mac-daddy?  Will it give you the “wow” factors from others you’ve so desperately craved ever since your parents didn’t attend your 6th grade graduation…

Should I go to grad school? The answer to this question may be more complex than you think, as it involves a number of factors.

Sorry, that was a little harsh.

Passive-aggressive comments aside, these are the overarching themes we’ll be using to evaluate whether you should move on in your academic life…

Resources Put In

Half of the profitability of any investment is made when you buy.  Or in our case, apply for loans or write a check to the university.  But there is lot more that goes into obtaining a graduate degree than just “money”:

  • TIME – This bad boy is first because it is, without a doubt, the most important resource you will put into your degree. Before attending grad school, the first question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I really willing to give up 1-4 years of my life to do this?” Bear in mind, these are not just some random years out of your life.  These are the years when you can run up and down Las Vegas Blvd half-naked and have it almost be acceptable.  The years that you can sleep around, drink, travel, get terrible tattoos in terrible places, and submit yourself to general debauchery and generally have it written off as “youthful exuberance”.  Are you willing to give up a solid chunk of that time for grad school?
    1. Remember, you’re not only giving up those years of fun while you toil away at papers/labs/case studies, but you’re also giving up a TON of salary while you’re in school. That $50,000 you give up per year while in law school? That counts as $150,000 that you DON’T have.
    2. If you’re answer is anything but an over-enthusiastic YES, then you have no right cutting out some of the best years of your life because mom/dad/family/friends/society says you HAVE to go grad school.  Fuck the haters, y’all.
  • TUITION – This one is pretty obvious. You have to know how much the tuition is going to be for each year that you’re going to be attending.  If you don’t know how much tuition is going to increase, look at the last five years of tuition.  Take the average percent increase, and forecast that into the future.  This could easily be $5,000-$20,000, so it’s an important number to know.
  • LIVING EXPENSES – Again, somewhat obvious, as you’re going to have to know how much it costs to live wherever your school is. And most schools will post an estimate of how much it costs to live in their given city.  My suggestion is to do your own research.  Why? Because the school’s website’s job is to convince you to apply.  But if you’re going to be dropping a few extra thousand a year just to live/eat somewhere, that’s information that you need to be specific, not just an estimate.
  • UNFORESEEN EXPENSES – There are TONS of expenses that you might not even see coming while you’re in grad school, but here are a few that come to mind:
    1. Engagement/wedding – This is a tough one, because most marriages occur around the same age as when most people are in grad school. Guys, what if you need to buy a ring while in grad school?  Money can dry up real quick when it comes to getting married.
    2. Pregnancy – I think the only thing scarier than dropping $60k on business school, or law school, is dropping that amount for a year or two and not finishing… might be worth keeping your promiscuity on the DL while in grad school…
    3. Failing a class – What if you fail a class and need to retake it? What if you don’t pass the bar, or your qualifying exams while doing a PhD? This needs to be budgeted/planned for, just in case.
    4. Tech failure – Drop your phone? Computer gets stolen? Get rear-ended by a stupid, albeit cute and charming, driver? Have you budgeted for these unforeseen instances?  If you didn’t, you’ll wish you did when they hit you out of nowhere like your 5th grade bully.


It might start to feel like this…

Ok, so now we have some idea as to what’s going to go into your degree.  Obviously, it’s going to take a little bit more than your blood, sweat, and tears.  But that’s the not fun part.  Let’s look at what’s going to happen once you graduate…


For the other half of the article, head on over to TheCodeToRiches !

Want to Treat Yourself? Use This Guilt-Free Financial Method

Greetings from sunny Las Vegas, Nevada! This guest post, “Want to Treat Yourself? Use This Guilt-Free Financial Method,” was contributed by Dave at FinancialJiuJitsu. At FJJ, trainers Dave and Don are constantly learning new things about finance and want to share their stories with you to help you out! They realize that a lot of people interested in getting ahead do not have a huge amount of money just sitting around, nor would they need a huge amount of money to be happy.

When it comes to your finances, the temptation to treat yourself can be fierce. If you want something new, follow this advice and remain guilt-free.

Want to Treat Yourself? Use This Guilt-Free Financial Method

So a few months ago I’m browsing Craigslist looking at classic cars. Or junk cars if you prefer. In California we have a smog system which only allows cars of pre-1975 vintage to be exempt. Reading between the lines here that means that if you like hot-rodding engines or working on anything that you ever want to be fast, it has to be pre-1975. Hence my search criterion. The 200$ minimum eliminates the dealers and people who list their 12,000$ cars for 12$. There should be a law against that type of abusive false advertising but I digress. . .

When it comes to your finances, the temptation to treat yourself can be fierce. If you want something new, follow this advice and remain guilt-free.
My typical search when bored

Long story short I find some killer deals, like I always do. And again like I always do I ask myself the question:

“Do I really need another hot rod project?”

Of course I do! But last time I checked, remember this was from a few months ago, I still had a 1973 Lincoln Continental Mark IV with a 460 in the driveway. Having another vehicle whose function is even slightly similar to the weekend cruiser/ engine build project in my driveway would be unnecessary end even cumbersome. The amount of time and effort it takes to keep a classic vehicle ready to enjoy and drive is not trivial. So doubling that even if one of them is “complete” at the moment is absurd. And then there is this quote from Jonny Depp which is relevant:

When it comes to your finances, the temptation to treat yourself can be fierce. If you want something new, follow this advice and remain guilt-free.

Of course we car guys know that we are capable of so much love when it comes to cars. We could leave one in the woods to turn into a rust bucket after 20 years and if someone asked us if we loved that car, we would say yes. We will also say we love cars that we see passing in the street or cars that we only just met. Ah the heart is a fickle thing but I digress…

The solution to this dilemma is, of course, coming to terms with your inner desires and understanding yourself in a deeper fashion and blah blah blah whatever leave this site and try to find some more click bait

Here I will stop and say that at Financial Jiu Jitsu (FJJ) we have promised to give you insightful ways on how to actually handle your affairs, and we will not always spout trite garbage in your direction. This isn’t Facebook or Twitter where everybody has advice, but it is rarely unique or even slightly insightful. So let me mansplain this for you in a conclusive fashion:

  1. You want something cool

  2. You already have something cool

  3. What do you do? Go to our site and do some soul searching.

We say: If you want to avoid guilt, get on with your life, and buy something totally savage all at the same time, just sell something first.

In this instance I Immediately posted the following:

When it comes to your finances, the temptation to treat yourself can be fierce. If you want something new, follow this advice and remain guilt-free.

And within a month it was sold. The article is here and it was not a very profitable flip but it was a very educational build for me.

Now – you know what the kicker is? I still haven’t bought another car and that sale happened about a month ago. In my 20’s I would have not had the patience to even wait until this car was sold to buy another and get started all over again. And in the interim my driveway would have been clogged, I would have been fixing 2 cars at the same time (inevitably with the classics,) and I would, of course, have been tempted to lower the price of the car I had for sale to attract more buyers. In this case I avoided all of those problems and more by following some simple advice:

If you want something, sell something first.

When it comes to your finances, the temptation to treat yourself can be fierce. If you want something new, follow this advice and remain guilt-free.




Jiujitsu Financial

Readers, how do you treat yourself within reason? Do you sell something before buying something new? Save and pay cash or leverage credit? What’s your method?

September 2016 Blog Report

Today’s post is the sixth monthly blog report on FinanceSuperhero. So it only seems fitting that we celebrate with a half-birthday cake.

A blog report for for the month of September 2016, including reflection, statistics, and a look ahead to the future of the website.

It is hard for me to come to grips with the fact that this little website has been around for 6 months. I launched it rather reluctantly at the urging of Mrs. Superhero on April Fool’s Day 2016. In spite of what some may think of the articles, this project has not been one big joke to me – I have loved every second of time spent on crafting articles, engaging with readers and other bloggers, and learning new things about the world of finance.

If you are reading this, thank you for your interaction, kindness, constructive criticism, and support, all of which have helped this little blog grow. I began this website with a lofty goal Restoring Order to the World of Finance – but also for my own personal entertainment and enjoyment.

If I have helped even a small handful of people restore order to their financial world, I consider my mission accomplished. Yet, as Oprah Winfrey said, “This is a great day, and we’re just getting started!”

September in Review

Back in early September, I established a simple and singular goal for the blog:


I didn’t shoot for any specific numbers, dollar amounts, or new subscribers. I just wanted to see growth. The concept of setting such a vague goal was very uncomfortable for me, yet it just felt right.

On September 1, FinanceSuperhero’s Alexa ranking hovered around 490,000 globally. I was very happy to see this number grow organically over time. To be quite honest, I didn’t think it would be possible to reach that ranking level without a feature in Forbes, Business Insider, or Rockstar Finance. So I really didn’t expect to see that number improve much.

As of October 4, FinanceSuperhero’s Alexa ranking has improved to 326,929 globally and 49, 978 in the United States. Cheers to growing in popularity within a country well-known for its mishandling of money, I guess! Again, this occurred without any of the aforementioned features. On a side note, on the off chance  you’re a Forbes editor and you’re reading this, let’s talk!


In other news, FinanceSuperhero continues to be profitable. I’m not ready to quit my day job or evening job at this time, but I’m pleased with the income generated by this little project. And as Matt at DistilledDollar has so eloquently pointed out time and time again, I have profited financially from this project in ways that are in no way related to blog-based revenue.

Looking ahead

For October and beyond, I’m going to stick with what is working: I hope to see more GROWTH. I hope to keep learning more and more each day. And I hope to make you, the reader, think a little bit differently about life and money.

In the next week, I am counting on inspiration to strike while Mrs. Superhero and I enjoy a much-needed respite in Las Vegas. If I don’t gamble away our life’s savings –OK, who am I kidding? That’s about as likely as Donald Trump releasing his tax returns today– I should return next week with a slate of new articles. By the way, make sure you come back Friday for an intriguing guest post!

Here’s to the future of FinanceSuperhero and Restoring Order to the World of Finance!

How was your September? Did you accomplish your goals? What goals do you have for October and beyond?

The Legion of Super-Posts – Issue 8

Each Saturday, The Legion of Super-Posts chronicles a number of posts which piqued my interest due to their uniqueness, insightful analysis, or emotional impact. I hope to share articles which you may not have read during the week while enhancing a sense of community and promoting other bloggers.

The Legion of Super-Posts

In this week’s issue:

The Lucky Ones – Grizzly Mom and Dad

I am always on the lookout for new bloggers to follow, and thanks to Pete at Mr. Money Mustache, I stumbled upon a new blogging couple fairly early into their journey. Grizzly Mom and Dad are a couple who grew up in middle class families, received college educations, and earned high paying jobs. They wrote,

Most people are idiots, and we woke up to this fact over the past year and a half. Our jobs, our high salaries, our house, our cars, our stuff – nothing but a ever growing pile of chains. Golden chains but chains nonetheless.

Top 5 Productivity Tips: Add More Hours to your Busy Day – Aaron at Income Honcho

Time is the great equalizer which levels the playing field in many ways. In order to do more, it is necessary to increase productivity. Aaron provides excellent tips to do exactly that.

What I Learned By Donating And Giving Away Nearly All Of My Stuff – Michelle at Making Sense of Cents

Based on twisted Western logic, most people subscribe to the idea that more money = more stuff. Michelle is one of several bloggers who rejects this idea despite earning a king’s ransom through her blog. She wrote,

We don’t miss anything, we don’t feel like we need anything – we are happier and much more carefree now by living with less stuff.

Take a Picture, It’ll Last Longer – Mr. Crazy Kicks

Mr. Crazy Kicks shares a fascinating story about his purchase of a bike and its long-term impact on his thoughts and life.

Have a great weekend everyone!

How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

This article, “How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life,” is the fourth installment in the Lessons From the Gridiron Series. You can read previous installments by following the links below:

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part One

The Truth About Money and Happiness

Uncommon Lessons From an Uncommon Coach – Part Two

Life is not always kind. When adversity slams the door in your face, you can give up or choose to reinvent yourself and improve your life.

How to Reinvent Yourself and Improve Your Life

The batter confidently and calmly strode to the batters box. He dug his cleats into the dirt, settled into his stance, and awaited the first pitch. The pitcher delivered a pitch down the heart of the plate, and moments later, the ball sailed over the fence just left of dead-center field.

One at bat. One pitch. One home run.

The small crowd cheered as the batter rounded the base paths and pumped his fist. The rest of the team poured out from the dugout and mobbed the batter.

It was a moment that occurs with regularity during a baseball game, yet this home run was different, monumental even.

It had been launched by Heisman Trophy winner and former-NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.

Reinvention: From the Gridiron to the Diamond

Set aside any personal feelings of ambivalence you may have for Tim Tebow for a moment and appreciate the facts of the previously described sequence of events. Tebow, a polarizing athlete, broadcaster, and public figure, had just homered in his first professional baseball at-bat.

Yes, he is playing an instructional league. Yes, the competition is non-elite. But to reinvent yourself in the manner that Tebow did in that moment is a remarkable example.

reinvent-yourself-tebowTebow last played competitive baseball approximately twelve years ago as a high school junior. Ever since hanging up the baseball mitt at that time, his life has been focused on football. He achieved tremendous success during his collegiate career at Florida, where his performance on the gridiron indicated that he was destined for a long career in the NFL.

Yet, aside from a handful of special moments, Tebow struggled to live up to expectations as an NFL quarterback. Though he displayed unquestioned grit and toughness, questions about his passing ability loomed large. After being traded from the Denver Broncos to the New York Jets, Tebow struggled to fit. Over the next few seasons, he bounced from the New England Patriots to the Philadelphia Eagles.

To his credit, Tim Tebow never stopped trying to succeed as a football player. Though he is now pursuing a baseball career, we may not have seen the last of Tim Tebow under center on the gridiron.

When Adversity Strikes, Reinvent Yourself

Despite our best efforts and intentions, life will not always be kind to us. When adversity rears its ugly head and slams doors in our faces, we can give up or choose to pursue a new path. The following steps can put you on the path to reinvent yourself.

1. Identify and apply transferable skills. Each person is unique and possesses abilities and skills which are transferable in nature. Tebow is attempting to transfer his strength and overall advanced athletic abilities from the gridiron to the diamond. Likewise, a downsized IT sales team leader may attempt to utilize his charm, emotional intelligence, and negotiation skills to reinvent herself as a real estate broker. Or perhaps a teacher who is an expert communicator and problem solver may seek to reinvent himself as a life coach.

2. Determine your values and passions. While transferable skills make indicate your values and passions, it is possible that your former career was holding you back from your best contributions. When life gives you lemons, don’t instantly look to make lemonade. Pause and take stock of the situation. Ask yourself how you arrived at this current place. Examine your options. This is an opportunity to do what excites you! Perhaps you will choose to make lemon meringue instead.

3. Find a mentor. Learning from a mentor is one of the best ways to reinvent yourself. If you are sincere, hard-working, teachable, and dedicated, you will find a mentor who is willing to invest in you. Later, you can pay it forward by mentoring someone else in their journey.

4. Tap into your network. While a mentor will be integral to your successful transition, one person is not sufficient. Reach out to everyone you know and share your plans with them. Articulating your position, hopes, and dreams will not only open up opportunities, but it will also help you clarify the path ahead of you.

5. Be patient and resilient. Times of transition can often be the most trying times. Success is not often something to be found overnight. When Steve Jobs left Apple in 1985, he initially struggled to find success despite his undeniable skill and brilliance. In 1986, he funded the The Graphics Group, which later became known as Pixar. This group eventually created the hit feature Toy Story and was later purchased by Disney, in turn making Jobs the largest Disney shareholder. This is just one example of the power of patience and resilience in attempting to reinvent yourself.

6. Stop at nothing to reinvent yourself until you succeed. Tebow kept trying and kept searching even when things didn’t go his way on the football field. He played alternate positions, stayed ready, and made the most of his opportunities. When this didn’t work out, he pursued other paths such as broadcasting. Now he is giving baseball a try, playing for the New York Mets instructional team.

7. Embrace past failures and learn from them. Failure need not lead to embarrassment . We all fail. Take your lumps, learn from the experience, and move on.

8. Project confidence. When trying to reinvent yourself, you will experience doubt and hardship. Sometimes, you may have to fake it until you make it. But if you display a lack of confidence, it will show. Create a list of your skills and best qualities and review it on a daily basis. Keep a copy in several places around your home, office, or maintain a digital copy on your phone.

Winning Time

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step in the right direction. That direction may change over time. When it does, remain bold and view hardship as an opportunity.

In what ways have you had to reinvent yourself? Personally? Professionally? Financially? How did you do it? 

The Herd Mentality and Retirement – How to Free Yourself and Others

In my last piece, I wrote about my apparent decision that perhaps early retirement just isn’t for me. I outlined several pros and cons of early retirement, all of which I had previously read about or otherwise heard expressed.

Confession time: I was subtly and intentionally trying to stir the pot.

The result? It worked. My faux-criticism of early retirement worked just well enough to spark some lively discussion.

For reference sake, here are the pros and cons I listed.


*Opportunity to spend increased time with family and friends
*Freedom to travel
*Reduced stress and improved health
*More time to pursue other interests or even a new career


*Possible negative impact upon health (possible loss of health benefits, decreased physical activity)
*Possible boredom and/or depression
*Increased stress (more time to worry; constant fear that your nest egg may be insufficient)
*Limitations due to fixed income

For the record, I don’t necessarily buy into the above cons. They are possible, but as Physician On Fire stated, “if you’re more stressed and less active when retired, resulting in poorer physical and mental health, you’re doing it wrong.”

So why was I intentionally-deceptive?

The herd mentality plays a large role in the formation of the average retirement plan. We may wish to deny it, yet our actions are telling. Learn how to break free and help others do the same.

Testing the Herd

While I don’t mind readers agreeing with me based upon the merits of my arguments, I do have a problem with those who mindlessly agree with others. To the credit of those who left responses in the comments, you all got pretty critical with my shallow analysis. Some of you were kind, even though I could sense that you really wanted to sock it to me. Some of you downright took me to the cleaners, which I fully deserved!

I’ve noticed more and more that this kind of honest dialogue is rare. Heck, if the two top candidates to become the next leader of the free world cannot even participate in a simple debate without displaying an egregious lack of manners and an overall inability to communicate, how can we expect people to be candid yet respectful in a blog or other forum? And how can we expect people to disagree with one another in person and still continue the conversation?

These are tough questions to navigate, so many just don’t bother to try. We pat each other on the back despite the presence of disagreement, stand pat as others share misinformed or half-baked ideas, and keep our mouths shut.

We might not possess a herd mentality ourselves, but we often do very little to discourage its advancement among our friends and loved ones. Think about it. How many of us have said nothing when a friend or family member spoke of his latest voluntary investment in “can’t miss” company stock, the “stable return” of her annuity, or the “deal” he received on a whole life insurance policy?

I know I am often far too nice, and you are, too, in all likelihood.

Understanding the Herd Mentality

The act of discouraging the herd mentality on retirement begins with understanding. If we can grasp the reasons for the perpetuation of this mentality, we may be better equipped to combat against it.

At its heart, the herd mentality may be traced to man’s desire for conformity. Put another way, being different is very often undesirable. Even a majority of the weirdo middle school kids with dreadlocks and trench coats don’t like being different, if they’re being honest. So we often find ourselves following along with others in group-think as a means of gaining a sense of belonging and becoming part of a group.

Similarly, the heard mentality is rooted in the fear of being wrong. Even if we feel we are more likely to be correct in taking a specific course of action, nagging fear may drive us to choose the opposite course out of fear that we could end up isolated by our own wrong doing. After all, it is better to be wrong and with others than to be correct and alone, no?

Intellectually, many of us may wish to shed these notions, yet our behaviors and actions say otherwise.

Discouraging the Herd Mentality

So how exactly can we help others overcome the tendency to conform, fear mistakes, and perpetuate a herd mentality? No two people are alike, but the following guidelines will prove to be helpful in most situations and with most people.

1. Listen more than you speak

When helping another person by seeking to change their opinion or behavior, it is most important to fully understand their position. This understanding can only be achieved through careful listening.

Billionaire Richard Branson articulated the importance of listening very well in sharing a lesson learned from his father:

When I grew up our house was always a hive of activity, with Mum dreaming up new entrepreneurial schemes left, right and centre, and me and my sisters running wild. You were as likely to find me helping Mum with a new project as outside climbing a tree. Amidst all the fun and chaos, Dad was always a supportive, calming influence on us all. He wasn’t quiet, but he was not often as talkative as the rest of us. It made for a wonderful balance, and we always knew we could rely on him no matter what.

Within this discreet support lay one of his best and most simple pieces of advice for me: listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak. Wherever I go, I try to spend as much time as possible listening to the people I meet. I am fortunate to travel widely and come across fascinating characters from all walks of life. While I am always happy to share my own experiences with them, it would be foolish if I didn’t listen back.

2. Ask questions with care and humility

Aside from listening, it is equally important to engage with others by asking thoughtful questions and remaining humble. These steps go hand-in-hand, and they are the keys to earning others’ trust.

Remember, most people do not care what you know until they know that you care.

3. Acknowledge your own mistakes and imperfections

In order to continue building a foundation of trust and credibility, seek to admit your own mistakes and imperfections. It is very difficult to shatter the herd mentality if you skip this step.

Yesterday, I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show podcast when Dave took a call from a confused caller. The wife and mother of four shared that she and her husband were considering following the advice of friends and family by moving in with her parents and selling their house to save money. Dave took this caller to task in a manner that made me wince a bit. He was critical of the caller’s lack of planning, overblown spending, and knee-jerk reactions. Dave also pointed out the this woman was attempting to implement a plan which treated only the symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself.

Naturally, this caller became a bit distressed and defensive. In a moment of swift timing, Dave pointed out that he himself had made “far dumber” mistakes with money than even the mistake that this woman and her husband were about to make. As he outlined several of them in crystal clear detail, he displayed empathy and earned credibility with the caller. Little by little, the caller warmed up to Dave and become more and more interested in what he had to say. By admitting his own mistakes, Dave broke down the herd mentality barrier which had driven this caller.

Final Word

I apologize for any genuine concern I may have caused over my views on early retirement. Despite my deception, my true vision for early retirement is simple:

I desire to reach financial independence and gain the option to work, if I so choose, for purposes other than monetary rewards.

Despite experiencing some guilt over my slight deception in my previous piece, I am glad that the outcome was as I had expected. Collectively, the tight-nit community listened to my ideas, posed relevant questions and counter-examples, shared personal anecdotes, and tapped into long-established trust and credibility in an attempt to show me the error of my ways.

I am proud to be running with the right herd.

Have you had experience breaking others free from the herd mentality surrounding retirement?