Today’s post, “Five Home Upgrades Almost Guaranteed to Lose Money,” was contributed by Anum Yoon, the founder and editor of Current on Currency, a site devoted making personal finance more approachable for 20 somethings and international students.
Five Home Upgrades Almost Guaranteed to Lose Money
Just because you upgrade your home doesn’t mean you will get a higher selling price, because not all upgrades and home improvements are worth the investment. You may be surprised to learn some of the home upgrades you should forget about, including these five.
Adding a Pool or Hot Tub
You may think adding a pool or hot tub would greatly increase the value of your home, but that is not true. Why? Pools and hot tubs are expensive to maintain, they raise taxes and, if problems arise, the cost to fix them can be enormous. You should also consider the impact it can have on homeowners insurance.
Just because you like purple walls or a bird mural on the ceiling doesn’t mean potential buyers will. While it’s fine to add a fresh coat of paint to increase your home’s appeal, it is not a good idea to use unusual colors or customize to match your unique style.
Though the new owner can make changes, potential buyers would rather buy a home that doesn’t have to be changed right away. Choose neutral colors to paint rooms and ordinary design schemes. This way the potential buyer can take their time in repainting, not forced to cover up something that doesn’t suit their tastes at all.
Converting Rooms Into New Functions
Room conversion is a home upgrade that doesn’t always pay off. For example, it may seem like a great idea to convert your garage into a den or a small bedroom into a home office or walk-in closet, but these improvements aren’t always the best decision.
Making changes like these can actually reduce the value of your home. Consider the neighborhood and the size of your home. Would a bedroom be more practical than a walk-in closet? Most likely the answer is yes. In most cases, room conversions and luxury home upgrades are a just a bad idea.
Major Landscape Upgrades
You may think bigger is better, but that’s not always the case when it comes to outdoor landscaping. Creating a backyard oasis complete with pond or gazebo sounds nice, but it’s costly and usually doesn’t add any value to your home.
If you want to spruce up the backyard or front walkway, that’s fine. You can add more value for less cost by planting flowers or bushes near the entryway or investing in lawn maintenance to ensure your grass is green and inviting.
Adding a Deck or Sunroom
Sunrooms and decks can be a fun gathering place, but they are not always a smart investment. It costs nearly $80,000 for the average sunroom addition, for example, and you get barely half that back in value. Decks are also costly and add little value to the home.
These two projects require a lot of materials, labor and other costs to complete. They also need upkeep, which some potential buyers may not want to burden themselves with.
Home Upgrades Worth Pursuing
While this list may surprise you, keep in mind this general theme: when it comes to home upgrades, overdoing anything is not a good idea. The best improvements for the home are those that add value, such as improving efficiency and fixing problems that may lead to costly repairs later.
Simple improvements, such as adding fresh paint and improving the look of the home outside, are your best way to go. Don’t go overboard and try to make your home into a showplace.
Instead, focus on creating a clean, uncluttered inviting home. Keep upgrades standard and simple. This way, you can be confident that your chosen home upgrades will be a wise investment for years to come.
Anum Yoon is a millennial money expert and runs Current on Currency. Sign up for her weekly money newsletter here if you want to read more of her posts!
This “Guide to Planning a Home Renovation From Start to Finish” post is underwritten by Hearth. Hearth specializes in educating consumers regarding home renovation products and helping them find the best offers to avoid overpaying for renovation projects. All opinions expressed are mine.
The process of renovating your home can be one of the most stressful and overwhelming experiences as a homeowner. Decisions regarding paint colors, decor, flooring, and themes are challenging in their own ways, but larger projects introduce new sets of challenges and excitement.
You may be excited about renovating your home, or it may be your only option if you purchased your home at a higher price point than what you could sell it for today. Either way, a reasonably priced and well-executed renovation project could be just what you need to make your home more enjoyable and livable for your family.
In the past year, my wife and I experienced the home renovation process when we opted to finish our 800 square-foot basement. We were fortunate that our project went according to plan and stayed on budget.
The sad truth is that many people have a worse experience when starting and completing home renovation project. Selecting a space, creating design ideas, determining a budget, hiring a contractor, and completing a project can be incredibly stressful and costly.
Even in the age of HGTV, the average consumer is poorly-equipped to make smart decisions when it comes to home renovation projects. This is especially true for millennials.
This guide is designed to help you navigate the home renovation process from start to finish and make the process smooth and enjoyable. Whether you’re new to home ownership or a longtime homeowner, this guide will help you avoid costly home renovation mistakes every step of the way.
Starting Your Renovation Project
According to a recent study by Hearth, 45% of millennials surveyed expressed a strong desire to renovate their homes. Starting a renovation, not just as a millennial, is often the biggest hurdle to leap based on several factors:
Existing debt obligations (student loans, auto loans, credit card debt)
Lack of basic financial literacy
Little understanding of which renovation projects will maximize return on investment
Fortunately, a wealth of resources is available for anyone considering a renovation. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recommends consumers consider their reasons for remodeling and develop a vision for how their completed project will add value to their lives in the future.
Highest Value Renovation Projects
Understanding your potential return on investment is critical before starting a new renovation project. The simple reality is that few projects instantly increase the value of your home in proportion to their cost, but many projects lead to increased values and high returns on investment over a period of just a few years.
According to a Realtor.com article, the following projects feature high returns on investment:
Fiberglass insulation in attic
Steel entry door
Stone veneer (manufactured or real)
Universal bathroom redesign/remodel
Determining What You Can Afford
One of the most critical components of any home renovation plan is a budget. The sad reality is that many people skip this stage entirely and rush into their project without a plan to pay for it.
As a result, many people exhaust their cash resources and take on high APR credit card debt in order to complete their projects. The previously mentioned study by Hearth revealed that an alarming 16% of millennials are likely to refinance a home renovation project using credit cards.
Credit cards are admittedly convenient, and 0 percent APR financing offers can be alluring. However, financing large home renovation projects using credit cards can trigger unexpected high payments and crippling interest charges once promotional offers expire in 6 to 12 months.
A wise rule of thumb when planning a renovation budget lies in estimating total project costs and adding 15-20%. My wife and I used this technique when planning our basement renovation, and it helped us to determine how much cash we could afford to spend (without exposing ourselves to financial emergency) and whether we would need to seek affordable financing to complete the project.
Ultimately, we qualified for a small loan with low payments at an interest rate which was lower than our current mortgage interest rate.
Considering Financing Options
Once armed with knowledge of how much you need to borrow, it is best to research financing options from a variety of sources. One common renovation mistake is applying for a loan with only one lender and accepting their offer right away.
Many borrowers fear that applying for multiple credit offers is too time consuming, damaging to their credit score, and exposes them to identify theft. These worries may have been relevant in the past to varying degrees, but today’s processes have largely eliminated these worries.
The Hearth Advantage
For example, a borrower who is seeking attractive financing options for a home renovation project can receive multiple personalized offers just by filling out a secure 60 second form with Hearth.
Hearth’s process is quick, won’t impact your credit score, doesn’t require fees or collateral, and will provide personalized rates from leading companies like SoFi, LendingClub, Prosper, and BestEgg.
Unlike other companies, Hearth is not a lender. They work with lenders on behalf of borrowers to gather pre-qualified offers for personal loans. Collecting these offers does not require a hard credit pull until the final stage of application, which is why the initial process does not affect your credit score.
Once your offers have been gathered, Hearth simplifies the process of considering your options by helping you compare interest rates, fees, total interest cost, monthly payments, and more. Unlike other companies, the core of Hearth’s service lies in educating consumers to make wise decisions.
All offers gathered by Hearth are sent directly to your email inbox and are valid for 30 days. Applying for one of these loans is as simple as one click. At this time, you will need to provide further information to your chosen lender to complete your application. Assuming you provided accurate information from the start, the final terms and rates offered by your lender are likely to be similar or the same to those quoted initially by Hearth.
Once your application is complete and approved, funds are typically dispersed in 1 to 14 days. This is important, as quick access to cash can often be a difference maker when securing a contractor.
If you’re not sure whether you’re ready to dive into your renovation project, Hearth has created a useful quiz to help you determine your readiness for your remodel. It asks important questions about your project plans and provides actionable advice based upon your responses.
Starting Your Home Renovation Project
As in nearly every industry, money talks and cash is king. When starting your home renovation project and selecting a contractor, having cash in hand can help you compete for top contractors in your area, many of whom would rather be paid in cash than on credit.
The process of choosing a contractor to oversee and complete your project is far less stressful when financial concerns have been removed from the equation. With a funded loan and cash in your account, you are in better position to take your time interviewing multiple contractors, check their references, compare bids, and check reviews with the Better Business Bureau.
Before choosing a contractor, be sure he/she is licensed in your area and has appropriate liability and worker’s compensation insurance (for subcontractors). Any history of complaints or unethical behaviors are cause for concern.
You will be working with your contractor for the length of the project, so it is also important your personalities mesh well. You want to work with a contractor who is an excellent communicator and is able to show you in-depth plans and timelines for completing your project.
Make Your Renovation as Smooth as Possible
Home renovation projects can be very exciting, but the truth is that they can be scary and stressful. At a basic level, any remodeling project involves trust, as a relative stranger is redesigning a huge part of your life.
The best way to make your renovation as smooth as possible is to minimize your risk exposure from the very beginning. You can avoid contractor conflict, running out of cash, and taking on high interest credit card debt, and risking foreclosure thanks to home equity issues when you take advantage of sensible lower interest personal loans.
Despite sensationalist headlines to the contrary, the American Dream of home ownership is alive and well – and it doesn’t end when you buy a home! Making your house a home may require changes. Simply put, home renovation decisions can have a lasting financial impact for years -even decades- to come.
If you’re serious about making your renovation process as smooth as possible for yourself and your contractor, start by making the right decision about how to pay for it. You can review your options and make the most-informed decision by planning your project well, considering responsible lending options with Hearth, and selecting a well-reviewed contractor.
Disclaimer: Shogun Enterprises Inc D/B/A Hearth is not a lender, does not broker loans to lenders and does not make personal loans or credit decisions. This article does not constitute an offer or solicitation to lend. Hearth will submit the information you provide to a lender. Providing your information to Hearth does not guarantee that you will be approved for a personal loan. Hearth is not an agent, representative or broker of any lender and does not endorse or charge you for any service or product. For more information, please visit https://www.gethearth.com/terms/ and https://www.gethearth.com/disclosures/
This article is not intended to provide legal or financial advice is purely provided for entertainment and informational purposes only. All opinions contained herein are the property of FinanceSuperhero.com.
This post on gold investing is from Chelsea, the founder of Mama Fish Saves. It provides an in-depth look at the realities of investing in gold.
Gold investing was always a topic of heated debate in my house. My grandfather was a total gold bug. He was convinced that the dollar was essentially worthless since Nixon brought an end to the gold standard in 1971. No matter how often we sparred with him on the total doomsday scenario he created in his mind where we would wake up to a completely devalued US dollar, he was convinced. Gold was the only way to protect your wealth.
My grandfather passed when I was 16, but there is a vocal minority of people who still agree with him. And with markets at all-time highs, political uncertainty abounding, and low-interest rates the debate is arising yet again. So today, I wanted to share why gold should be, at most, a very small percentage of your portfolio. And why it’s 0% of mine.
Why some people invest in gold
Overall, I think gold investing is silly and I don’t do it myself. But for fairness, let’s start with the valid reasons some people might invest in gold. Because, arguably, there actually are some. Today, gold is primarily an investment vehicle. Gold is discussed alongside interest rates and currency values, not end user demand like other commodities. But people have valued it for generations and it still could have a small spot in your investment portfolio.
Gold can be good for diversification.
When we face a recession, the US dollar weakens, or any kind of broader crisis occurs, stocks usually decline while gold rises. The point of diversification is to have different assets that don’t move in lockstep. The way gold moves opposite the market is a positive for smoothing returns.
Gold is good when you’re worried about inflation.
The core reason many investors purchase gold is because it holds its value. Gold investors like my grandfather don’t like that the Federal Reserve can “just print money whenever they want” and value gold for its scarcity. And over the past 50 years, they have largely been right. Since 1802, the value of gold has increased about 0.6% a year, on average, while the value of a dollar has declined 1.4%, according to AAII.
Over the very long term, gold has shown much weaker returns than the stock market, which we will discuss below. That has not been the case over the last 17 years, with gold up 348% since 2000. However, that is more indicative of an investment bubble than a strong track record. If you really want to invest in gold or are particularly worried about geopolitical issues, I would recommend viewing it as an alternative investment in your asset allocation. Cap your gold investments to 5% (maybe 10%) of your total investment portfolio and buy ETFs instead of gold bars and coins.
Winston Churchill once said, “If you put two economists in a room, you get two opinions, unless one of them is Lord Keynes, in which case you get three opinions.” This is true on almost every economic issue with the exception of the gold standard.
In 2012 at the Initiative on Global Markets at the University of Chicago, a panel of economic experts were asked if they agreed that a return to the gold standard would improve life for the average American. Results were unanimous with 100% of economists disagreeing with the proposition. Chicago’s Richard Thaler went so far as to say, “Why tie to gold? Why not 1982 Bordeaux?”
It has been over a decade since I debated with my grandfather about the merits of the gold standard and investing in gold. But if anything, I think his arguments are more ridiculous today than I did then. Here’s why.
You’re giving up returns to “invest” in gold
Choosing to put your money in gold is one step above not investing at all. Stocks pay dividends, public companies grow over the long term and increase their stock value, bonds pay interest. Gold does, well, none of those things. While gold might not suffer the inflation risk of simply leaving your cash in a savings account, there is still an opportunity cost of holding it. Over the long-term you are giving up significant returns for perceived security. Below I included a publicly available chart from AAII, a nonprofit investment educator, to show the difference in historical returns adjusted for inflation. Since 1802, stocks have returned an average of 6.7% a year while gold has returned 0.6%.
Gold pricing is propped up by investors
To me, the craziest part of gold investing is retail (personal) investors who say it is beneficial because it has intrinsic value that can be passed down through generations, unlike that ridiculous paper dollar. But gold doesn’t have intrinsic value. We don’t need it for almost anything outside of jewelry. We don’t consume it; the world wouldn’t stop without it.
Since 2000, gold prices have risen 348%. In that same time period, real demand for gold for jewelry and some other small industrial, dental and technology uses has fallen over 35% according to the World Gold Council. Demand fell and prices rose. Oops, we broke economics.
What happened was that investors stepped in. Gold ETFs (exchange traded funds) were created in the early 2000s which allowed individuals to purchase gold without having to actually bury gold bars in their backyard. Investment demand grew from 160 tons in 2000 to 1,574 tons in 2016. An increase of almost 10x! This meant that investment demand went from being 4% of total demand to 36%.
What do we think would happen to gold prices if investors suddenly decided they didn’t want to be invested in gold anymore? Or if the decline in popularity of gold jewelry continues and people start taking advantage of the high gold prices to sell old jewelry for cash? The price will plummet closer to real demand and kill any potential returns.
Gold has value because we say it has value. The same complaint gold bugs make about the US dollar and other floating currencies. The difference is, it is far easier to imagine the music stopping for gold than for the dollar.
The supply of gold is constantly increasing
When you use 15 gallons of gasoline in your car, it is gone. The world no longer has those 15 gallons and it will take the planet thousands and thousands of years to produce 15 new gallons. With gold, almost all of the gold mined in the history of the world still exists today. Whether in jewelry, gold bars, or dental fillings, the gold got processed but not consumed. Every year we mine more gold and the absolute supply grows.
We have way more gold than we actually need, which is almost ironic. The exact commodity prized for its scarcity is really quite abundant.
The doomsday preppers don’t need gold
I saved the silliest for last because it is a debate I actually had with my grandfather more than once. He would explain to me this dystopian scenario where the economy or U.S. government would collapse, the U.S. dollar would be worth nothing, and we would need gold. It is actually a relatively common argument among conspiracy theorists. They have a deep seeded distrust of the government and authorities so they hide in gold.
But in a collapse of the world as we know it, what would you possibly do with gold? If your neighbor had fresh water, and you had none, he isn’t going to give you any for all the gold bars in your basement. It would be useless to him! If some kind of global crisis is what you are preparing for, you probably aren’t reading this blog. You wouldn’t trust me. I’ve been told I don’t understand. However, if you are here, I’ve got some tips. I’m not going to try to convince you the world will be fine. I don’t know that and you wouldn’t believe me. But if you really want to prep, maybe focus on food, water, and fuel. And invest in the market, just in case everything turns out alright.
Gold investing is an inflation hedge, not a path to real returns
Overall, choosing to invest in gold is accepting that over the long-term you’re giving up returns. Gold is a hedge against inflation, and performs better than cash, but you shouldn’t have a lot of cash sitting around anyway. If you can invest through the cycle, with discipline, and for the long-term, you are almost always better off buying stocks and bonds over gold bars. But good luck convincing Grandpa.
Chelseais a mother, wife, investment professional, and personal finance nerd.
She founded Mama Fish Saves, a personal finance blog for families to provide simple answers to all the money questions we didn’t get answered in school.
She hopes to help parents feel empowered about their finances so they can achieve their dreams and raise financially smart kids!
Advice and pro tips on just about every topic imaginable are available in just a few clicks or swipes on a pocket-sized device today. The best financial advice is no exception. Based upon the wealth of information available to everyone with a mobile device, there are increasingly fewer and fewer reasons for the lack of wisdom and overall financial mismanagement which are common today.
Ironically, we just may be living in a period of the worst personal financial mismanagement of all-time, despite access to information having reached an all-time high.
Recently, I read a Yahoo Finance article about Derek Sall, the owner of Life and My Finances, who impressively paid off over $116,000 of debt before turning 30. In the article, Sall shared his best financial advice.
“The best tip I can give is just live your own life,” he said. “The best way to just live simply and be content is just to turn it all of and hardly pay attention to it at all. Because that’s what gets people in the most trouble.”
As I read this, I nodded my head in agreement with Sall. It’s very good advice from someone who has earned the right to talk the talk by walking the walk, so to speak.
Then I scrolled down and started reading the comments section – the place where mis-informed and overconfident readers typically congregate to spread poor ideas on large sites like Yahoo.
Apparently, Sall’s advice struck a nerve with the internet trolls. Here is a selection of some of the comments:
“Thanks for the useless ad for [Derek’s] blog.”
“How much did you get paid for this useless tip?”
“So the tip is to just ‘live your life’?”
But folks . . . Not to rain on anyone’s parade here, BUT . . . If everyone did that, only buying what they need, just think how many people would be out of manufacturing jobs, retail jobs, mortgage jobs, etc. Also how much sales tax would the government be missing out on?”
“nothing new here”
“Bet this guy makes $100,000,000 on suckers who buy his book. There is no get-rich-quick scheme that is legal. BEWARE.”
“That’s awesome that this guy is out of debt. But it seems like he missed out on doing a bunch of stuff while in the prime of his life. I go to work to make money. The point of having some money is so I can do things that I want to do, as well as save some of it.”
“Let me guess, he cancelled his cable and quit getting a morning latte at Starbucks, it works every time.”
“The tip is don’t spend money, okay got it.”
After reading through all of the comments, the exact reason why so many people manage their money poorly occurred to me:
The best financial advice is not sophisticated.
Complicating the Uncomplicated
More and more, it seems that people want to reject any kind of advice which is simple at its core. We are prone to rejecting basic ideas in favor of the more complex, as if complicated advice is somehow better by default.
Based upon the comments above, many readers assumed that there was no way Derek achieved debt freedom simply by living his own life on his own terms. In their minds, the secret to financial success had to be more complicated.
This attitude is all wrong.
The truth is that achieving financial success isn’t complicated and the best financial advice out there is not sophisticated.
The Best Financial Advice is Simple
The main reason I’ve always been interested in money and personal finance is because money is simple. It doesn’t have a mind or life of its own, and it does exactly what I tell it to do. It’s like every dollar I possess becomes a tiny employee who exists to answer to my every bidding.
And at the end of the day the total value of my money is largely dependent upon the actions of one person: me. My choices determine whether my financial net worth grows or dwindles.
If I use my basic arithmetic skills and reconcile my earnings and expenses properly, I can be sure that I stay in command of my choices and my money. And if I plan ahead a bit, I may even save money!
Many people can’t bring themselves to accept that money management is really this easy and simple. They insist that such a basic approach – keeping a budget, spending less than what is earned, and saving the rest – is only for unsophisticated simpletons.
The truth is that there is a tremendous degree of sophistication in simplicity. And realizing and embracing this truth is not only one of the keys to overall financial well-being; it’s one of the keys to happiness in general.
The problem is that we live in a society which has completely rejected simplicity. Take a walk through your local grocery store with open eyes and you’ll see what I mean – dozens of varieties of toothpaste, entire rows devoted to snack foods, and more flavors of ice cream than Dairy Queen.
Variety makes life interesting, to be certain, but there is a breaking point in which complexity leads to analysis paralysis. This is true of grocery shopping, and it is true of personal finance.
Some things in life, including money, are just better when they are simple and uncomplicated. It’s time for all of us, the internet trolls included, to accept this truth, embrace it, and live happily.
What is the best financial advice you’ve ever been given? Is it complicated?
Our culture is intensely interested in wealth. We have a billionaire president, shows like “The Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” are huge hits, and sometimes it can be tough to tell if you’re watching the Nightly News or Entertainment Tonight. These superficial glimpses into the lives and habits of the rich have become a surprisingly vital part of the low information American diet.
Some watch the lives of the wealthy purely for entertainment purposes. Others are interested in smearing rich people for everything they do, almost as if possessing wealth is inherently immoral. “Oh, they have money?” they say. “They must be evil!”
A shockingly low number of people are interested in following the lives and habits of the rich for the most practical and beneficial reasons: studying the habits of the rich is a wise way to reverse engineer wealth and success.
The honest truth is that many people are more interested in observing and living vicariously through the wealth of others than they are learning about how to get there themselves. (Perhaps that is why an alarmingly high number of Americans have less than $50,000 saved for retirement.)
So what’s the root cause of culture’s misplaced priorities?
Seven Habits of the Rich to Incorporate to Build Wealth
The truth is that our culture has adopted and embraced all of the wrong symbols of wealth. A high credit score is really an “I love debt” score. A new leased vehicle in the driveway every two or three years is really a sign that its driver prefers operating a vehicle in the most expensive manner possible. And large suburban mini-mansions with several extra rooms are still just as empty and hollow as the hearts of their owners.
If you’re tired of simply watching of the lives of the rich on TV and want to build wealth yourself, studying the habits of the rich is a great place to start. Read the following seven habits of the rich, slowly incorporate them into your lifestyle, and start building wealth.
Prioritize Saving Money
In The Millionaire Next Door, the late Thomas Stanley surveyed a panel of average everyday millionaires to find common characteristics among what turned out to be a widely varied cohort. Among many habits of the rich that Stanley discovered, a focus on saving money above all else was key.
Across the board, first generation wealthy people developed their wealth thanks to long-term saving discipline and dedication to living a frugal lifestyle.
When it comes to choosing between saving and discretionary spending on things like new cars, larger homes, lavish vacations, or expensive clothing, a majority of wealthy people choose the former. At the same time, wealthy people value quality over quantity, i.e. they prefer to own fewer possessions of high quality rather than many possessions of lesser quality.
Avoid Debt as Much as Possible
While it may be true that debt can help you get what you want even if you can’t afford to buy it with cash, it is equally true that excessive debt is one of the top barriers to building wealth. Buying anything using debt is inefficient, more costly, and it limits your ability to build your retirement portfolio, own real estate, or start a business.
Some wealthy people enjoy trying to beat the system and leverage others’ money to their advantage, but it’s worth noting that a majority of wealthy people prefer to avoid this kind of unnecessary risk. In other words, there are far more people who actually develop wealth by following The Millionaire Next Door model than people who follow the model of leveraging others’ money touted by Robert Kiyosaki in Rich Dad Poor Dad.
Maintaining low levels of debt, if any, is one of the hallmark habits of the rich. It puts them in position to take advantage of new and unexpected opportunities to grow their wealth. Perhaps this is way a majority of first generation wealthy people are business owners.
Interestingly, the presence of debt often serves as an unexpected litmus test for whether a person is truly wealthy or just living a wealthy lifestyle. Like Dave Ramsey likes to say, “You can find out who is skinny dipping when the tide goes out.”
Drive Used Cars
One of the most surprising habits of the rich is the overwhelming tendency to drive used vehicles. The average millionaire rarely, if ever, purchases a brand new car, allowing others with far less wealth to absorb the harsh hits of depreciation during the first 2-4 years. Then they buy well-maintained used luxury vehicles with cash.
Maintain Good Physical and Mental Health
It may appear that many wealthy people are workaholics, but the truth is that hard work and good physical and mental health are not mutually exclusive. In fact, maintaining good physical health through diet, exercise, and self-care remains one of the most common habits of the rich.
In particular, starting the day off with a focus on health is one of the hallmark habits of the rich. A recent article in Business Insider outlined the habits of several wealthy people. John Paul DeJoria, the man behind Paul Mitchell hair products, begins each day with quiet meditation. Birch Box executive Brad Lande begins his morning with hot tea and yoga. Kevin O’Leary, the investor made famous in Shark Tank, starts his day with a 45 minute workout.
The reason behind such health-consciousness is simple: it is foolish to gain wealth if you do not maintain adequate health in order to live a long and enjoyable life.
Read two non-fiction books each month
Among the main habits of the rich, ongoing learning and growth is a consistent priority across the board. It’s not uncommon for people who have accumulated wealth to read two or more non-fiction books each month in an effort to learn new things.
For many people, the habit of reading and implementing new ideas served as the impetus for growing their brand or starting a business in the first place.
Build multiple streams of income
Of the most common habits of the rich, the development of multiple income streams separates the financially independent from typical high-earners. These forms of income vary greatly, from active to passive, and include the following:
Investment income via dividends
Owning real estate bought with cash
Developing a product
Owning a business (or multiple businesses)
The time and effort required to build these income streams is usually a heavy sacrifice initially. But there is no question that it pays off.
Despite a report in The Atlantic which claimed the wealthy only give 1.3 percent of their annual income to charity, it is important to remember that large variances and anomalies tend to skew these types of statistics.
Ultimately, the main reason behind why so many wealthy people do give generously is that they have developed a healthy, well-adjusted attitude toward money. Psychologically-speaking, they understand that helping others who are in need is rewarding and self-satisfying. Simply put, it makes them happy.
One thought I heard on giving has always stuck with me. I don’t recall who said it, and I’m paraphrasing, but here is the basic idea: It is difficult to receive anything in life with a tightly closed fist.
How can you apply the habits of the rich in your life?
Studying the habits of the the wealthy has a very limited payoff without application. As in most endeavors, you can get started by chasing after the lowest hanging fruits.
If you’re not in the habit of saving and investing money, you need to take definitive steps toward gaining control of your cash flow. If you’ve never made a budget or analyzed your current financial situation, that is an easy place to start.
One of the simplest ways to gain a birds-eye view of your financial big picture is by signing-up for my favorite FREE financial tool, Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can monitor your spending by category, track all of your debt and assets, and even receive a personalized review of your finances. Get it here!
If you’re looking for a quick win, you can join thousands of others who have trimmed their budget of unwanted and unused recurring subscription services by using the FREE Trim Financial Manager. When you sign-up, Trim will review your regularly-recurring transactions, negotiate for better rates on your behalf, and even help you cancel unwanted subscriptions for you. You can learn more about Trim here.
Developing better habits may seem unlikely or even hopeless if you find yourself struggling with the burdens of debt. Refinancing is not the silver bullet to debt problems; in fact, it just serves to lessen the symptoms of the underlying problem. But if you’re paying sky-high interest rates, reducing them is an incredibly smart way to jump start a rapid repayment plan.
If you have high-interest student loan debt, I recommend giving LendEDU the opportunity to review your situation and provide options. If you have 90 seconds, you can fill out a quick form now and receive quotes from up to 12 different lenders without affecting your credit score one bit. If you still owe a sizable amount on your Associates, Bachelors, or Masters degree loans, this is literally one of the easiest ways you can free up money in your budget.
Finally, with mortgage rates likely to continue their recent slow rise, now is the time to consider refinancing and locking in a better rate, especially if this has been on your radar for a while. The two companies I recommend most to gather your options are LendingTree and GuideToLenders. Both can match you up with the most competitive rates for which you qualify and help you save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your mortgage.
From there, start adding new habits to your daily routines. Go for an evening walk, grab a new non-fiction book at the library, and start practicing silence and solitude.
Remember, the common thread in all of the habits of the rich shared above is intentionality. Act consciously and deliberately and you can achieve great success!
How many of the habits shared above do you currently practice in one form or another? What other habits do you think wealthy people have in common?
Basic economics show that when you and I buy anything, we are paying for more than just the product or service. This is true of cars, groceries, landscaping services, and of course, investment services. While many of these fees are one-time hits on your wallet, the painful impact of investment fees continues for years and wears away at the size of your retirement portfolio.
Consider the chart below, as produced by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which illustrates the incredibly disastrous impact of investment fees over a 20 year time period.
A quick glance reveals that even a difference of 0.25% in annual investment fees can reduce portfolio value by $10,000 over 20 years (see the gap between the blue and red lines). The $30,000 difference is even more disastrous when comparing the 1.00% annual fee portfolio to the 0.25% portfolio (blue line and green lines, respectively).
Investment fees are far from the only factors worth considering when selecting investments and choosing an adviser or service, but the graph above is proof that failure to consider investment fees is a serious and costly mistake.
Many professional advisers and services tout their reputation and experience in an attempt to justify their high investment fees, but as an investor in today’s market, it is possible to design an investment portfolio to achieve your goals AND receive personalized professional advice without sacrificing thousands upon thousands of dollars of long-term portfolio growth to investment fees.
Enter Helium Investments.
What is Helium Investments?
Helium Investments has made it their mission to give average investors access to leading financial industry investment techniques at a fraction of the cost of large investment advisor firms.
Simply put, Helium offers low fee, low tax investment options to help investors maximize returns now and over the long haul.
How is Helium different?
Thanks to the internet, investors have more options than ever before. Stocks, mutual funds, and ETFs are available and accessible through a number of avenues.
However, many of these companies willingly set-up your retirement or taxable brokerage account, take your money, and then the air waves go silent. Your money is still invested, but when it comes to paying attention to your investments, you’re on your own. And if you want to make changes to your portfolio, perform periodic rebalancing, or make trades, you’re charged a fee.
Helium offers a different model built upon low fees and professional advice. When you deposit or withdraw money from your account, there are no fees. As your portfolio grows over time, Helium performs rebalancing for you based upon your goals at no cost to you. There are no fees for buying or selling securities within your portfolio, and if you want to connect with your advisor online or via phone, that is also free.
How does Helium earn a profit?
With extremely competitive low fees, Helium generates its profits based on a simple fee model.
Accounts valued under $10,000 are free
Accounts valued over $10,000 and under $250,000 are charged a 0.50% fee each year
Accounts valued over $250,000 are charged a 0.40% fee each year
As our opening example from the SEC above showed, investment fees can eat away at your retirement and other investment accounts in dangerous ways over time. Maximizing your returns and access to professional advice while carefully minimizing fees is one of the best ways to protect your future.
What can Helium do for you?
Helium’s mission is to help you save money while also investing your money in a manner that aligns with your goals and dreams. They achieve this by offering a rare combination of individually tailored client services, tax loss harvesting, automatic investing and rebalancing, carefully crafted portfolios, and low fees.
Whether you’re looking to build for your retirement, save money for a home or boat, or even build an emergency fund, Helium offers a variety of accounts to help you meet your goals:
A traditional IRA is a great investment account to help you save for retirement. Yearly contributions are deducted against your gross income, which you’ve most likely already paid income tax on. The IRS will typically issue you a refund for the excess income tax paid.
Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals) Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above Maximum Age to Contribute: 70½ Withdrawal Must Start: April 1st after you turn 70½
A Roth IRA is an excellent investment vehicle to save for retirement, but it has income limits. If you earned more than $132,000 in 2016 – you’re unable to contribute to a Roth IRA. Unlike a Traditional IRA the gains and withdrawals from a Roth IRA are generally tax-free even before age 59½
Taxable: Yes (Deposits), Typically no (Withdrawals) Maximum Contribution: $5,500 per year under 50 years old, $6,500 above
You can move your employer based 401(k) into a Rollover IRA account and have the funds managed by Helium. You can roll up to one account per year. The contributions from a 401(k) are not taxed but still need to be reported. Most 401(k)s have management fees – the average American will pay over $138,336 in 401(k) fees.
Unregistered accounts are still a valuable investing tool as short term savings and when you reach your yearly IRA contribution limits. With an unregistered account the deposits are not taxed, however the gains are taxed at your capital gains tax rate. This rate varies based on your marginal rate – typically between 0% for those making $37,650 and under to 20% for those making $451,051 and over.
Taxable: No (Deposits), Yes (Withdrawals)
The Helium Advantage
A major value at Helium is helping investors start early and receive good advice from the start. They believe in a continuous cycle of getting advice, setting your goals, reaching them, and setting new goals.
Prospective investors can use their intuitive calculator to evaluate just how much money they can save with Helium compared to remaining in a portfolio of higher-fee mutual funds.
For example, I used the calculator to evaluate how much I could save in Helium’s aggressive portfolio based upon an initial $2,000 investment and $750 monthly contributions over 10 years. Based upon a reasonable estimated return of 6.5%, the calculator showed that I could save nearly $10,000.
How to get started with Helium
Registering with Helium is fast, simple, and even fun. It only took me a few minutes to work my way through the process on my laptop when testing it out.
If you prefer, you can also download the mobile app to your device and register that way. It is available on both iOs and Android devices. Users can even begin registration on one device, pause midway, and resume on another platform.
You’ll start by choosing a username and password, then proceed to entering typical identifying information, such as your name, address, and contact information.
Next you’ll be asked a series of interesting questions designed to help the Helium team get to know you better, such as:
If you were on a TV game show and could choose from one of the following, which would you choose?
If you needed $2,000 tomorrow, what would you do?
After answering approximate questions regarding income, net worth, savings goals, current debt levels, and preferred account types, all that remains is adding a beneficiary, social security numbers, and linking your preferred banking account.
The Helium Investment Dashboard
In order to help me provide maximum insight in this review, the team at Helium built a test account for me. After logging in, I was shown a centralized dashboard which highlighted my overall portfolio composition.
By navigating to the Portfolio tab, I was able to take a quicker look at the composition of each account by date by using the drop down menu. Here is a look at the test Roth IRA account as of February 5, 2017.
The Performance tab provides helpful linear graphs to help investors see performance trends over time. Here is a snapshot of the performance of the Traditional IRA within the test account.
I was pleased to see a tab for users to create and update goals within the dashboard; this is a great example of how Helium strives to live up to its mission of helping their clients achieve their goals. Establishing a goal within the test account was simple. I named the goal, established a monetary figure and target date, selected a corresponding account, and saved the goal.
Why Should I Sign-Up With Helium?
As an investor, you have several viable options when it comes to building for your retirement or other financial goals. It is important to keep in mind that your unique situation, goals, and desired level of involvement will play a big role in determining the best way to manage your investments.
For an investor who is looking for regular access to professional advice without paying high fees, Helium Investments can provide very high value. They offer a rarely seen combination of tailored advice, low fees (or no fees for accounts under $10,000), automated rebalancing, and sophisticated tax loss harvesting. And by all indications, they’ve cracked the code on leveraging technology and low-cost ETFs to maximize portfolio gains and minimize fees.
For investors who embrace the notion that what you keep is more important than how much you make, this is a perfect approach. If you’re interested in actively trading on a daily basis (which I do not recommend), Helium isn’t for you.
I recommend connecting with Helium Investments and giving their team the opportunity to review your portfolio. By simply uploading a statement, Helium can review your portfolio and analyze it for potential savings. They may be able to save you several thousand dollars.
What’s Not to Love?
To be perfectly transparent, I tried very hard to uncover “the catch” with Helium. I thought I might discover hidden fees, high set-up costs, or other red flags.
But I didn’t.
After an in-depth review, it appears that the Helium Investments team has built a client-friendly model that is also profitable for their company. As their website shows, they have a small core team and, therefore, likely have low overhead. Some may see this is a disadvantage, but I don’t.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is the future direction of Helium Investments. They are a newer company competing in a saturated market. However, no market is too saturated for a new company which provides incredible value when compared to its competitors.
Helium Investments™ and the Helium Investments Balloon are trademarks of Helium Investments Inc, all rights reserved. Helium Investments Inc is a registered Investment Advisor with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the jurisdictions of
CA, TX, FL, NY, IL, PA, OH, GA, NC, MI. Investment accounts are free up to $10,000 USD after fees apply. Any historical returns are not indicative of future performance. Investment values will fluctuate over time. SIPC Member, Not FDIC Insured. No Bank Guarantee.
This review is sponsored by Helium Investments; however, all analysis, review, and opinions are the the product and intellectual property of FinanceSuperhero.com.
How often do you pay attention to investment fees? Are you paying high fees and getting little in return?
One of the keys to financial health is maintaining a purposeful and conscious relationship with money. It involves having reasonable debt (if any), spending money based on your values, having a safety net such as insurance, and saving and investing money to meet your future goals. Regardless of your relationship with money, various steps can be taken to improve it.
How exactly should you go about it? The following steps will help you develop a better relationship with money.
Take Note of your Money Habits
First, take time to evaluate how and where you spend money on a monthly basis. The following simple exercise will help.
List the top things you spend too much money on and then rank them in the order of what makes you happy the most and what least appeals to you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
What motivates you to spend money on certain areas?
What are my triggers?
Am I an impulsive buyer?
Note that your relationship with money is largely embedded in your character. By paying close attention to your behavior around money in terms of income streams, you can get a deeper understanding of yourself then use the knowledge to improve your financial habits.
Putting it all together
Improving your relationship with money also stems from making a fundamental change in your mindset. Having a good relationship with money is not necessarily about earning a large income or working overtime.
However, it is about placing less emphasis on decisions where money is involved. There will not be pressure to take up a job or a career where money is not the primary factor.
Adjust your Goals
Watch your budget closely and only spend what you comfortably can afford. Many people tend to spend more and more as their income increases. Rather than increasing spending, it is wise to increase savings instead. The best way to help you focus on your goals and spend less is by establishing incentives that will motivate you to watch your budget.
Focus on Saving
Credit cards are very tempting since they separate spending from the pains of payments that need to be made. The best way to do this is to set a default savings transfer your bank account or paycheck. It is wise to focus on your hard-earned money and use it invest in businesses, purchase a home, and opening savings accounts.
You can even have your pay raises directed to your retirement accounts, for example. Saving can be interpreted differently by various people; one reason it is important to create a healthy relationship with money is to ensure you pursue your long-term goals.
Investing is a great way to strengthen your relationship with money. The first rule here is to invest in what you already know and understand what makes a good investment, i.e. penny stocks vs. small-cap stocks vs. large-cap stocks, etc.
The world of investing can be overwhelming and confusing, which leaves many would-be investors unsure where to start. Some of the forms of trading include:
Swing trading – trading here is held more than a day, but shorter than a hold and buy strategy that can be held for months. To profit from swings, the asset being traded may be held for a number of days at a time. Profits in swing trading are gained by short selling or buying an asset.
Value investing – this is where the market is believed to overreact to bad and good news. The trader is involved in looking for stocks that may have been undervalued and profit by buying when prices are deflated.
Growth investing – this is when an investor makes an investment in companies that have an above-average growth rate. This method focuses on capital appreciation.
Investing in stocks, no matter what form you choose, will require you to be ready and willing to take the risk. It is wise to ensure you research ETFs to track the performance of the industry, choose sectors to select your stocks based on your criteria, and stay informed by reading stock analysis constantly updated by CMC markets and other reputable financial news releases.
Get Started Now
Many people have an unhealthy relationship with money. For you to change your financial status, first alter your paradigm about money and then act on it. Developing a good relationship with money is vital if you want to live the best life possible now and in the future.
I’m going to hit you with the cold, hard truth: You’re probably not investing enough money to be able to afford the future of your dreams, and your fear of investing is to blame. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if any of these statistics describe you:
A majority of family budgets prioritize student loan payments, savings for kids’ college funds, new vehicle payments, and family vacations over retirement investing
56% of Americans have less than $10,000 saved for retirement
Women are more likely than men to have no retirement investing plan
Only 1 in 4 people over age 55 have saved more than $300,000 for retirement
How many of these statistics describe you?
If not many, you’re probably in great shape with your investing.
If more than one describes your situation, you have some work to do if you’re going to retire comfortably.
The first step lies in overcoming your fear of investing.
9 Stupid Reasons to Put Off Investing for Your Retirement
Life is full of many uncertainties and only a few certainties. One major certainty for nearly all of us is the fact that we will need to retire someday. Trading our time and skills for earned income can only go on for so long.
So why do you so many people live like investing is unnecessary or optional? You guessed it: a combination of the fear of investing and lack of understanding.
Consider the following reasons that may be holding you back from investing in your dreams:
1. You have too much debt
Student loans, car payments, credit cards, home equity lines, and first and second mortgages make it possible to borrow lots of money, but lots of payments come with lots of loans! As a result many people don’t have much money left to invest.
2. You don’t know where to start
Investing seems too nuanced and sophisticated to many people, so they just don’t bother to start learning the ropes.
3. You don’t understand how investments work
Similarly, many people have a desire to invest and know they should be investing, but they are paralyzed by a fear of investing and lack of basic understanding of investment options. Words like bonds, stocks, mutual funds, annual return on investment, IRAs, and index funds are SCARY!
4. You’re planning to live off Social Security
Like Dave Ramsey sarcastically reminds us, the government is well-known for its ability to take care of money. Still, many people look to Social Security as their only source of retirement income.
5. You’re expecting an inheritance
Inheritance money can be an incredible blessing, but relying on it instead of investing consistently is a huge risk. Long-term care costs for their elderly are always on the rise, and many nest eggs have been cracked and scrambled by these costs.
6. You’re afraid to lose money on investments
I get it. Nobody wants to lose money. But losing money from time to time is part of the game of investing. The obvious goal is to win more than you lose, but like hockey great Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Investing isn’t a spectator sport; you have to play to earn money! If you allow the fear of investing to keep you out of the game, you’re guaranteed to lose.
7. You don’t have the knowledge to choose your own investments
Many would be investors have excitedly signed up for an online trading account only to realize that they’re not sure what to do next. The options seem limitless and unpredictable. So they put their money away in savings accounts and CDs instead and collect a very predictable but low interest rate.
8. You’re not willing to trust someone else with your money
Investment professionals are some of the least-trusted people in the financial world. Over the years, scandals and horror stories have legitimized these fears to some degree, though many true professionals are still out there. The sad truth is that many people aren’t willing to trust someone else with managing their investments.
9. You’re not willing to pay someone else to manage your investments
And even for those people who are willing to trust a professional with their money, management fees often scare them off in a hurry.
Overall, the fear of investing and the above barriers create three types of people:
Those who actively invest (Investor) by overcoming their fear and getting the help they need
Those who want to invest but fail to act (Aspiring Investor)
Those who ignore the importance of investing (Non-Investor)
By the end of this article, my goal is to empower you to move yourself up the top of the pyramid by providing resources and tools to boost your confidence and start investing as soon as possible.
The Best Resources to Overcome Your Fear of Investing
The first step toward overcoming your fear of investing and getting on track toward your dream retirement is evaluating your current financial situation. You need to create a one page summary of your current debts, investments, and other assets. The best way to do this job only once is to sign-up for Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can monitor all of your financial accounts in one place, analyze your portfolio, and track your net worth all from your mobile device.
You’ll also need to create a budget – think of it as a map that will take you to your retirement dreams by keeping you on track every month – if you don’t have one. Even if you’ve never lived on a budget before, this is the time to start.
Next, you need to estimate your overall retirement needs. One of my favorite financial writers, Chris Hogan, has created a FREE tool to help you calculate the amount of money you’ll need to save to retire; he calls it your R:IQ. Take a few minutes and get your number – it’s free, and you won’t get bombarded with SPAM.
Now that you have a clear picture of your current situation and what you want to achieve, it’s time to make a plan to get there. Depending upon your knowledge, interest, and available time, you can take on full responsibility of your retirement portfolio, manage only some aspects on your own, or work with a dedicated adviser who can help you reach your goals.
If you want to spend many hours learning the nuances of buying and selling stocks, TradeKing is a good option for you. TradeKing provides a powerful platform for investors to discover, research, and purchase stocks, options, and ETFs. They also offer access to knowledgeable brokers who will answer questions or even manage your portfolio at a cost to you. If you open a new account and start with a minimum balance of $500, you’ll receive $5,000 in free trades if you sign-up using this link for FinanceSuperhero readers.
Looking for more guidance and support? TD Ameritrade offers the next level in investment services with no investment minimums to open your account. Investors can choose the Build It Yourself option, receive a managed portfolio recommendation from TD Ameritrade Investment Management, LLC, or get connected with an independent Registered Investment Advisor. Check out your options with TD Ameritrade here.
And if you’re looking for a simpler approach that is more hands-off, the popular robo-adviser Betterment is the best choice for you. Why approach investing the Betterment way? The Betterment portfolio is designed to achieve optimal returns at every level of risk. Through diversification, automated rebalancing, better behavior, Tax Loss Harvesting (selling a security that has experienced a loss to offset other gains), and lower fees, the Betterment approach to investing can help generate 2.9% higher returns than a typical DIY investor. And they still offer investors access to a licensed adviser over the phone. You can open a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or complete a rollover 7 days per week.
As mentioned earlier, Personal Capital is the best FREE resource available for tracking all of your financial accounts, monitoring spending, and tracking your net worth all in one place. But they’re also one of the premier wealth managers today due to their integrated approach built upon a combination of innovative tools and the personal touch of a licensed adviser.
If you already have a sizable portfolio ($100,000 or more), I cannot recommend enough that you take advantage of Personal Capital's free consultation offer to analyze your portfolio. Yes, it’s really free, and if you don’t like the advice you’re given, you can continue to use the Personal Capital Dashboard to monitor your financial picture at no cost. If you’re impressed enough and convinced that Personal Capital will better manage your investment dreams better than they’re currently being managed, it’s also a win, as they will almost undoubtedly reduce your fees and improve your returns.
Get Started Now
Of course, these tools aren’t the only options available to help you overcome your fear of investing. You could visit a local brick-and-mortar adviser, read dozens of investment books for free at the library, or ask one of your connections for his best advice. You could search for the latest robo-adviser to pop up overnight. Any of these options is better than doing nothing, even if they’re incredibly risky.
My point is this: Don’t allow yourself to go another week without taking the steps to crush your fears and start investing in your future. Your family’s future is way too important to allow anything – lack of time, fear of investing, or uncertainty – to stop you from building a secure nest egg. Get started now!
When my wife and I bought our current home in May 2013, we were ecstatic. The house was beautiful, even if the landscaping needed some help. We lived with the sad state of the yard for one season and gradually made improvements each month. I resurrected the lawn, tamed the overgrown shrubbery, and even planted a few rose bushes. This was fun, but my mind was on one grand idea from the start: I wanted to build a paver patio. 100% DIY. With my bare hands.
I did my research and learned the project could be very budget friendly if I selected quality, affordable materials and went with a basic design. The techniques seemed simple enough as well, even for someone who isn’t very handy – like me.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Build a Paver Patio
After months of planning, scheming at Menards and Home Depot, and buying several pallets of materials, I got started on my patio project on the first day of summer vacation. If a teacher like me – with modest DIY skills – can build his own paver patio in a matter of days, you can, too. Follow my step by step guide below to build a paver patio and begin enjoying your own backyard oasis this spring.
Step 1: Purchase Tools, Calculate Materials Needed, and Apply For a Permit (if required)
Good news – you won’t need too many tools to build a paver patio. Make a list of the following tools, check out your inventory in the garage, and buy the rest.
Celebratory beverages of your choice (Summer Shandy worked for me)
Paver stones (*Note: I chose tumbled Belgian pavers for aesthetic reasons.)
1 inch PVC pipe, cut to length of widest walkway (Quantity will vary – minimum 2 recommended)
Paver leveling sand
Paver locking sand
Paver sealant (optional, but highly recommended to preserve your hard work)
Paver edging and/or paver edging stones
2”x4” wood joist (cut to appropriate length)
Full transparency – the materials calculation can be the most difficult part of building your paver patio. I fully recommended visiting your local Home Depot, Menards, Lowes, or other home improvement store to seek out their assistance. Provide a drawing/blueprint of your intended design, and they will be able to help you calculate the number of cubic yards of paver base and leveling sand you require. Calculating the number of paver stones needed will depend heavily on your design. I recommend purchasing an additional 10% over your minimum calculated needs to protect yourself from extra trips when pavers inevitably break or have color inconsistencies.
Guidance on Permits and Dealing with HOAs
If you live in a non-HOA neighborhood and have an understanding and easy-going local government, congratulations! The rest of us officially hate you, but you’re one lucky guy/gal. Youre ready to build a paver patio, so move on to Step 2!
For the rest of you: my best advice is to be patient. Your HOA and local building department will ask you to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop before they’ll give you a permit. Contact them well in advance of the date you plan to start your project, and play nice with them at every step of the way. You will get your permit if you follow the rules.
Step 2: Choose and Prepare the Area
When I decided to build a paver patio, I had a few possibilities for its location. In the end, I decided to build it adjacent to an existing concrete patio. This choice helped me determine the dimensions of the area which I needed to prepare. With my dimensions decided, I marked the area using a tape measure, landscaping stakes, and line marking spray paint.
PRO TIP: If the area you plan to build upon is currently covered with grass, use your lawn mower to cut the area as short as possible after measuring.
You will need to remove additional grass and soil beyond the eventual boarder of your patio, so be sure to include an additional 12-16” on all sides of the dimensions as you mark them.
Step 3: Remove Grass, Sod, and Soil
With your measurements complete and construction area prepped, you are ready to remove the grass and soil. Depending upon your soil type, you may be able to complete this step using hand powered landscaping tools and lots of elbow grease. Using a sharpened garden spade, I recommend removing square foot sections of sod by outlining sections and lifting them individually into your wheel barrow – in my case I also used a trustworthy Red Flyer wagon.
PRO TIP:If you have unusually dry soil or, as in my case, find yourself dealing with rocky and dry clay, run a sprinkler for 30 minutes the evening prior to excavating the grass and soil. It will make it easier to loosen the sod.
With all of the grass/sod removed, you are ready to remove an adequate amount of soil. Depending upon your local building requirements, you may have to remove up to 12” of soil to allow for adequate space for paver base in the next step. Especially if you live in a cold climate, you will want to be sure to provide a base which more than adequately supports your patio.
As your soil allows, aim to remove soil in a manner consistent with the desired grade of your planned patio. Contrary to popular belief, it is usually best to design your patio with a very slight pitch angled away from the foundation of your home to ensure that water runs away from the foundation of your home – a level patio is only desirable in rare circumstances.
Step 4: Add Paver Base
If you purchased bags of paver base, move them into the now excavated area using your wheelbarrow. Dump the base in consistent, even layers throughout the entire area and rake the base to spread it evenly. Periodically pause and use your hand tamper to ensure that the paver base is tight and compact. You will also went to lightly wet the area as you tamp it.
I saved a significant amount of money by using a hand tamper rather than renting a plate compactor, but my forearms and biceps paid dearly for this decision. If you are using a hand tamper, I recommend tamping each square foot of your base approximately 100 times to ensure that your base is firm and secure. Need I remind you about the man who built his house on shifting sands?
PRO TIP: When your base is secure, measure, cut, and place your landscaping fabric over the top of the base. Secure it using landscaping nails. This step is optional, but it will greatly cut down on weed intrusion in the future.
Step 5: Add and Level Paver Sand
Place your pre-cut 1 inch PVC pipes on top of your firmly tamped paver base. Carefully pour leveling sand in between the PVC pipes and on all sides in two to three feet increments. Then place your 2”x4” on the PVC pipes and screed, or drag, the board across the pipes gently to level the paver sand. While you can access the area, gently lift out the PVC pipes, fill and level those voids with leveling sand, and replace the pipes along the path. Continue this process until the entire patio area is covered with paver leveling sand.
Step 6: Place the Paver Stones Individually
Prior to placing your paver stones, pick a corner or side to start in and very lightly mist the paver leveling sand. Begin laying the paver stones according to pattern you designed while being careful not to drag the stones across the leveling sand. Set adjacent paver stones to be snug against neighboring stones. I recommend gently tapping them into place using a rubber mallet.
If you’re looking to build a paver patio featuring an easy design, a basket weave or herringbone pattern is classic and timeless. These designs are also time-savers, as they don’t require any cutting. I went with a modified basket weave pattern (see picture to the right) to add character. Continue following your design pattern until all stones are in place while ensuring that you lightly sections of leveling sand before continuing. It is also very helpful to have another person hand you stones of varying colors while you complete this step.
When all of your paver stones are in place, step back and be sure that you did not make any errors with your pattern. When you’re ready to move on, add edging stones or other edging materials to ensure that your paver patio retains its shape. Secure them using landscaping nails.
Step 7: Finish the Job!
When all of your paver stones are in place and edging is completed, you are ready to secure the paver stones in place. Pour a fine layer of paver locking sand on top of your patio and use a push broom to fill all of the gaps between adjacent paver stones. When all of the gaps are filled, gently sweep away excess paver locking sand. Then spray a very, very light mist of water over the patio. The water will activate the paver locking sand and help your patio retains its form.
Repeat the procedure above again when the paver locking sand joints appear to be dry. You may need to perform this step several times until all the gaps are filled. If you’ve rented a plate compactor, gently run the compactor across the patio service. Make a single pass in each direction to uniformly compact the paver stones.
It’s time to bask in glory! Grab a beverage of your choice, pull up a chair, and celebrate. You just built a paver patio!
Step 8: Seal Your Paver Patio
This step is optional but highly recommended if you’ve taken the time to build a paver patio. Using a commercially-available concrete or paver stone sealant will add many years to the life of your paver patio. All products will come with slightly different instructions, and it is best to follow them precisely. I applied my sealant using an all-purpose roller and have since re-applied once each year. Nearly four years later, my paver patio still looks new!
After you have finished this step, you will want to ornament the patio with soil, small annuals, mulch, and perennials (see above). This extra touch will complete the process of transforming your drab backyard into a new outdoor oasis!
Now that you know how easy it is to build a paver patio – even if you have limited DIY skills – it’s time to start planning your project. With the right amount of patience, planning, and preparation, you can transform your boring backyard into an outdoor oasis!
Could your backyard use a face lift? What’s holding you back from building your own paver patio?
My uncle loves to tell the story of his friend from church. This man was unassuming – he worked a blue-collar job as a machinist in town and remained with that company throughout his entire working career until he retired in his sixties. His wife never worked – they felt it would be more valuable for her to remain home and raise their children. Last year, this old man passed away, and his wife followed just a few months later. They had been married for more than 50 years and still lived in the tiny home which they had purchased shortly after getting married. And nobody knew that they had discovered the easy way to become rich.
The machinist and his wife were a model of frugality. They owned only one vehicle and preferred to drive well-maintained used cars. My uncle couldn’t recall a time in which the couple owned a vehicle newer than five years old. A true story-teller, my uncle saved the best for last in the tale of his friend, and what he told me was most-unexpected:
The elderly gentleman and his wife had amassed a nest egg worth over $1 million and willed half of their estate to the church.
You may know a similar couple. I know a few, too, and their secret is simpler than you may think.
THE SHOCKINGLY EASY WAY TO BECOME RICH SLOWLY
In The Millionaire Next Door, the late Thomas Stanley identified the common traits of PAWs, or Prodigious Accumulators of Wealth. My uncle’s friend was a PAW. He spent far less than he earned for several decades, avoided spending money on status symbols, and did not tie up his money in depreciating assets.
Some financial experts say that personal finance is 80 percent behavioral and 20 percent head knowledge. I believe that the simple approach of the machinist illustrates this principle very well. In fact, if we could interview the gentleman today, he would probably attribute his success to common sense, basic arithmetic, and compound interest.
I believe he would also talk about two very important numbers.
THE TWO MOST IMPORTANT NUMBERS TO WINNING WITH MONEY
As my uncle’s friend knew, the biggest elements contributing to financial success are not fees, return on investment, tax savings, or even time in the market. The most important factors are numbers: net income and net expenses.
The easy way to become rich is to increase the difference between these two numbers. Most financial experts call this “the gap.” How you do that is up to you. You can choose to increase your income by seeking a new job, asking for a raise, or starting a profitable side hustle. Or you can cut out wasteful expenses that do little to increase your happiness.
I will always remember the day that I read how simple it is to become wealthy. I calculated that I could retire after working only 22 years if I simply saved 40 percent of my net income. Even better, if I could save 75 percent of my net income I could retire in approximately 7 years. That short and sweet article from Mr. Money Mustache redefined my vision of what a reasonable retirement timetable looked like for me and my wife. Suddenly, working until 65 only seemed acceptable to me if it was by choice.
GROWING MY GAP
Our plan to grow our gap is constantly evolving. My wife and I do not yet have children, so our current plan is focused on growing our income as much as possible. We both are full-time public school music teachers. After school, my wife teaches piano, flute, and voice lessons in her private music studio. She built her business from the ground up. I am a realtor 24/7 and 365. Sometimes that means I work early hours before school, during my lunch break, in the few spare seconds that most teachers run to the restroom, and all other hours that my clients need me. Somewhere in between, I make time to write 2-3 articles per week on this site. My wife and I do all of this because we sincerely love helping other people grow and find solutions to their problems.
By now, I hope you believe that the shockingly easy way to become rich isn’t so shocking after all. It is largely built upon common sense. The problem is that everything in today’s world flies in the face of common sense. We are constantly told to spend more, live for today, and seize the moment. This is one of the biggest lies marketers have ever gotten away with telling – they have softened our sensibilities and led us to believe that we’ll always find a way to make it all work as long as we can pay our minimum payments.
The only way to become wealthy and live the life you desperately desire is to drown out the noise, roll up your sleeves, and get to work. Imagine what life would be like if you had no debt? What if you had a paid-for home? What if you had six months of living expenses in the bank? What if you never needed to trade your time for money ever again?
Those are the questions that keep me motivated on the tough days.
What motivates you?
RECOMMENDED TOOLS TO MONITOR AND GROW YOUR GAP
Personal Capital is the best tool to keep track of all of your liabilities (debts) and assets in one central location. With a few clicks, you can monitor your net worth picture and also dive into specific performance of your investments. I check my account a few times each week using the Personal Capital app. You can sign up for FREE using this link!
Today’s technological advances have made investing easier than ever before. Betterment is better than your average robo-adviser. Whether you are a beginning investor or a seasoned do-it-yourself-investor, Betterment can help you achieve optimal returns based on your risk preferences. Through a combination of lower fees, smarter behavior, diversification, and automated rebalancing, Betterment can help your out earn the typical DIY investor by 2.9%. You can roll over an existing 401k or IRA or open a new IRA in minutes.
My favorite tool to grow the gap, Digit, isn’t an investing tool and it alone won’t make you rich. But its algorithms will transfer money from your checking account to a Digit savings account and ensure that you don’t have easy opportunities to waste money. You can pause savings and transfer money back to your checking account at any time. Sign up for free here.
And if you’re looking to increase your income, consider driving for Uber. My friend is a school band teacher and earns a good salary. He takes advantage of his spare evenings and weekends and drives for Uber. He meets interesting people and often earns over $500 per week. If you enjoy driving and want to tap into the unlimited earning potential of Uber, Uber.
Readers, is there really an easy way to become rich? Have you identified your current gap, or difference between net income and expenses? What is your plan to grow your gap?