You Don’t Have To Live Alone

IMG_4359

Vancouver’s average price for a 2-bedroom unit is $1,345/month, and that ridiculous price doesn’t even go away once you leave city limits. I live in nearby Richmond and my place would hit the market at $1,400. Experts recommend budgeting 30% of your income for housing costs, so let’s figure out how much you’d need to earn to meet that criteria… HOLY SHIT, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? $4,483.33?!? I make that much, but I’m a special case. I have other sources of income, and I have 2.5 jobs. I also – since I’m not as dumb as I look – live with two other people and their combined rent is $950.43! With that, ALL my housing bills are covered and I HAVE ZERO RENT. I make sure my living costs are as low as possible, and I’ll show you how to do that too.

More info on my living situation here.

*****

“What’s your current rent and how many people are you living with?”

I was messaging Ben about his new living situation. He’d been in New York for a few months now, and I knew he’d upgraded a few things in his lifestyle. It’s weird to think he’d probably hit FI by 31 or 32 if he’d stayed just as frugal as before. I tried not to think about my debt. He messaged back.

“$1,400, and I live with one other person. There’s definitely cheaper places, but it’s a pretty nice apartment in Park Slope (Brooklyn), and a pretty nice area. Almost double the $750 I was paying in Vancouver.”

“$1,400 and that’s all you?” I asked.

“Yeah, it’s $2,800 total.”

I probed a little more and estimated his place to be about 800 square feet. This was a different world to me. Two-bedroom apartments in New York go for an average of $3,631. Ben had upgraded his lifestyle, but he still found a way to get a deal. Good for him.

Meanwhile, I started messaging one of my artist friends.

“Quick! I need rent numbers for an article!” I said.

“Me personally 200 but that’s cause the people I’m living with are cutting me some slack,” she typed back.

I probed a little more. She was living with her boyfriend in his parents’ home and had a room to herself. Not bad. My girlfriend pays $316.81 and shares a room with me.

Okay, I had what I needed.

*****

I don’t know why, but many 20- and 30-somethings regard living alone as some sort of achievement. When questioned about it, they’ll often say something like “I hate living with roommates”. Uh, maybe screen your fucking roommates and take the initiative to cut ties if a roommate relationship becomes toxic? I get it’s not always easy, BUT NEITHER IS PAYING $2,800 IN RENT ON YOUR OWN. I’ve been dumped as a roommate before, and it sucked, but making the decision to share your living expenses with ANYONE YOU CAN LIVE WELL WITH is a time investment worth making.

If I wanted it, my place could be just me and my girlfriend. I’d lose $633.62 in rent from my roommate though. That’s $7,603.44/year. WHY WOULD I DO THAT? In fact, we love that silly bastard. He cooks and cleans, and it’s honestly nice having someone else in the place while either my girlfriend or I are off at work. We’re not the only couple that has an extra roommate either. For a brief period, S&D were paying $1,800 for an 1,800-square-foot house, and they brought on a roommate at $550/month, or $6,600/year. That’s nothing to sneeze at. A hypothetical person paying New York prices at $2,800/month by himself is crazy by comparison! This proud idiot is throwing away $33,600/year, which is more than a lot of us millennials make! I LIVE FOR FREE. MY ARTIST FRIEND LIVES FOR $2,400. MY GIRLFRIEND LIVES FOR $3,801.72. Even working with the last figure, my girlfriend theoretically comes out $29,798.28/year ahead of this NYC guy who dislikes roommates. Know what happens if you put that money in a 7% investment every year from the time you’re 40-65? OVER TWO MILLION FUCKING DOLLARS.

I encourage everyone to have a roommate, even if you don’t “need” one. Crunch some numbers, and you’ll realize you need one more than you thought. Besides, living with people at any stage of your life is actually good for you. Living alone increases risk of death.

Need a roommate? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.

Life is Measured in Progress

Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 2.03.02 PM

Well, I’d done it. I’d caught up to my friend, Drew.

This is really fucking silly, but it’d taken me five years to get here. In December 2011, he bought me my first PS3 as a Christmas gift. I decided at the time I’d surpass him someday in PlayStation achievements, and proceeded to waste thousands of hours and dollars trying to meet this arbitrary goal. A few nights ago, I knew I was close. One more gold trophy and I’d match him, so I broke out “Spec Ops: The Line” and went hunting for the Intel Operative trophy: find all 23 collectibles scattered across the entire map. It was easy. As I tracked down the last one, I heard the little bleep-bloop that signified my victory. I hurried over to the trophy menu and saw what I’d been working for all this time. I’d matched Drew! A rush of endorphins later, I realized something terrible. UH, WHAT THE FUCK DO I DO NOW?

That was a month ago. Some of you may have seen my Facebook rants about feeling lost after realizing my entire life was a series of progress bars. I’ve still barely touched my PlayStations since matching Drew, and I’d also filled up my professional progress bars since I’m also all caught up on editing wedding photos. Without progress, I no longer had something in the background I could plug away at every time I felt bored. Even reading is a literal progress bar to me now, since my Kindle tells me exactly how far I am in my current book, and I’d exhausted my reading list too! Tony Robbins has often said “progress equals happiness”, but what happens when you run out of progress? You get shit like this.

Luckily, what I’ve been reading has helped. Productivity guru Jason Bell recently penned “Agile Timelord”, a guide to personal development that’s just the right level of nerdy to appeal to tech-savvy millennials. About 29% in – (see what I mean?) – Jason shows us a Life Wheel, a more dynamic way of looking at life progress instead of as a bar. Where a progress bar shows us linear progress in only one goal, his life wheel offers a more complete look at a variety of goals, ranging from Self-Image to Family to Wealth, and so on. Suddenly, I realized I -ALWAYS- had something to work on. I’m sure some of you knew this already, but for those of you who didn’t, LOOK AT THIS FUCKING WHEEL. The same way you can ALWAYS make an extra buck, you can ALWAYS move towards self-improvement! Do a few pushups. Take a nap. Call your mom. It all helps!

Linear progress is great for temporary goals. Dynamic progress is best for life goals. You know what the best part is? You don’t need to measure dynamic progress! As long as you’re making progress, you’re winning! I was bored a few nights ago, so I broke out the wheel. Hm, I’d been neglecting my love life for a bit, so I went out and put together a romantic night for me and my lady. Cheesecake, wine and flowers later, I realized I felt great! I was making progress!

Dynamic progress is not always easily measured, and that’s okay. It’s also okay to focus on specific areas as long as you’re flexible enough to not neglect any other part for too long. Remember, it’s a goddamn wheel. If it gets too oblong or misshapen, you end up like a CEO who dies alone. Remember the wheel.

In the meantime, buy Jason’s book! It’s a quick read, and if it changed my life, it can change yours. Let us know what you thought in the comments.

Editor’s note: Ben did not receive any payment for recommending these products.

On Millennials and Maslow

13645083_10209460112475787_5906249455044104767_n

Let’s just get this out of the way – I’m a lazy, entitled #millennial, and I’m everything wrong with this generation. Here’s why that’s not so bad. For this story, we’re going back a month to when I stumbled across this article on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I hadn’t thought about Maslow since Psychology 11, but remembering what I learned had me thinking for weeks: What do we millennials value, and why do we seem so entitled? WHY DO PEOPLE HATE US?!?

Well, I figured it out. Hold on to your butts.

*****

We, as millennials, need to work either smarter or harder than the previous generation, and the reason why comes from how we look at Maslow’s hierarchy. In his iconic pyramid, he illustrates five basic categories of human needs – physiological needs, like food and rest; safety, as in security of employment or property; love, as in human relationships; esteem, like feeling respected; and finally, self-actualization, like doing whatever the fuck you feel like because it makes you happy. It’s important to understand the visual because each category supports the next one. You can’t get self-actualization if you don’t have security, for instance. Actually, you know what? That last sentence was just plain fucking wrong, and it hurt me to type that. Millennials HACKED Maslow, and here’s how.

If you’re in your 20s, when was the actual last time you felt “secure”? You’ve known for years that everything teetered on the brink of disaster, ready to all crash down the moment your workplace decides to restructure or your landlord decides to renovict. Security is a thing of the past, and we all know it. What once were basic securities, like owning a house, is literally impossible now for most of us. We do not have Security.

You know what we DO have though? Adaptability. Our parents were mostly content to dedicate their entire lives to a steady paycheck and pension, but we know WE CAN DO ANYTHING. It’s not like Burger King is paying us a living wage anyway, so we go out there and do what makes us happy for peanuts. WE’RE ACHIEVING SELF-ACTUALIZATION TO EARN THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY. That’s what most people don’t get! AND we’re increasing our potential to earn instead of locking ourselves down as a wage slave! This is literally the smartest thing we can do!

Look at the pyramid again. Under Love, we have things like family and relationships. Most of us are delaying starting a family for a variety of reasons. Pessimists say it’s because we have no money, but I, as an optimist, would like to point out most of us just have different goals. I don’t want kids because my life is awesome already! Right at this moment, it’s within my means to just fly to Mexico for a week and not hurt my employment or relationships! Why would I change that AND THROW ANOTHER HUMAN BEING INTO THE MIX so I can feel fulfilled?

Our parents started building the pyramid the way it was supposed to be built in 1943: security first, happiness later. At the time, Maslow’s hierarchy resonated with millions. I’m here to tell you it’s fucking 2016 and Maslow is out of date. Pursue self-actualization now, and figure out a way to make it pay. C’mon, you’re resourceful and have Internet access! You can do it! Just start with a 10-to-2, work your fucking ass off, and you’ll experience something previous generations couldn’t: Creating Your Own Security with Something You Built On Your Own. It’s the best feeling ever.

My first job was as a video store clerk. I think it was less than $10/hour. My mom makes $15/hour, and she figures she’s doing okay. You know what the most I’ve ever made in one day was? $4,484.03, and it was doing something I loved. If $15/hour is okay, I’m banging angels. And what about Ben? I can’t release official numbers, but he learned programming on his own and will see FI by 33. Ben and I saw Maslow’s pyramid, catapulted ourselves to the peak with middle fingers in the air, and we’re building from the top down for a complete pyramid we can be proud of. I encourage you to do the same.

You WILL have to work smarter or harder though. It’s not easy to make a living as an artist, writer, craftsman, or entrepreneur. I’m hoping you’ll pick a job for yourself you’re so passionate about, you’ll ALWAYS itch to be working on it. You’ll probably also need a Day Job. Pretend the hours you grind out in the office are part of your Real Job, giving you enough money to get by until you can get back to your Passion. Ignore the naysayers. They don’t believe in what you’re doing BECAUSE THEY COULDN’T DO IT. Why would you listen to someone who ignored their potential? They’re still at the bottom of the pyramid wondering where the fuck we got our catapult.

As long as you have a roof over your head: self-actualization first, everything else later. The more you know who you are and what you want, the more you’ll come to define yourself instead of letting your job do it for you. Remember to work from the top down. See you in Mexico.

What I Learned About Money from My Parents

blp_dad-9193

My dad once paid $10,000 to advertise in a Chinese newspaper. I still admire him for that. He risked everything to run his own business as a driving instructor, but in the end, I don’t think he ever made that money back. Most of my family considers him a failure, but I don’t. He actually believed in something. To me, he was an inspiration.

My dad wasn’t a very good businessperson. Assuming he spent exactly $10,000 on advertising, and using his old rate of $30/hour, he should’ve done the math and realized it’d take him over 333 hours just to break even on his ads. Generating that many leads turned out to be impossible. He also somehow forgot to factor in gas and overhead. The business was destined to implode. In a family where his siblings earn far more, tensions arose. My grandparents eventually covered his ad costs, but resented him for it. He kept trying, but his health gave out. He eventually stopped working.

One night in 2014, he was admitted to Royal Columbian Hospital with chest pains. I rushed to the hospital and found him. He was very much alive, and was sitting up in bed telling dad jokes to our pastor. Apparently, he’d called him too. I don’t think any of us understood the seriousness of the situation that night. I figured he’d be home soon, and everything would be back to normal. We stayed up, told bad jokes, and just laughed. He was eventually admitted to the high acuity unit. I visited him there the next few days, and found him happy. He’d sing to the nurses and read the Garfield comics I brought for him. He didn’t seem like he had many regrets. Eventually, his aorta ruptured. I wasn’t there. From the last time I saw him alive, I remember two things: He was grinning like an idiot, and I told him I loved him.

*****

Ironically, my mom puts together advertising materials. She works for a marketing company, and as far as I know, spends most of her time feeding paper into a machine. She believes in a steady job, and not taking risks. I don’t think she’s ever made more than $15/hour. To her, what I’m doing is ludicrous. I’m going down the same destructive path as my dad by owning a business. After all, she’s seen what happened to him. If only he’d had a steady job, right? A steady job brings security, and security is all that matters.

I can’t even fault her for thinking this way. She’s right: I’d probably make more with a full-time job as a retail manager. Would I be happy though? Fuck, no! That’s not me. Like my dad, I need to pursue something that I build on my own. The last thing I want is a job like hers, feeding paper into a machine for peanuts while I make someone else rich. She doesn’t take any risks with money or investments either, so index funds are scary and $15/hour sounds just fine. She can’t understand I’d rather make $400/hour doing what I love on a not-so-frequent basis, and she’d rather see me in a Target or Burger King grinding out full-time hours like her. She’s seen my dad’s business fail, and she doesn’t believe in me. It’s depressing as fuck.

I was able to learn something though. I’d now seen both extremes. My dad risked everything. My mom risks nothing. Well, obviously, the answer that made sense lay in the middle. I could do both.

*****

With my photography business, I’m crazy. I’m all in, all the time. I risk my money, time and sanity to capture the perfect shot, and try to wow my clients always. I give everything. I also work at a liquor store. I really don’t need it to pay my bills, but the added security is nice. Want numbers? In June, photography brought in $3,262. I didn’t even shoot a wedding that month. The side job brought in $1,518. Not bad for added security, right?

My dad taught me to chase my dreams and take risks. It’s paid off. My mom taught me a little bit of grinding at a day job might not be so bad after all, even if I fundamentally believe Smart Work always trumps Hard Work. I figure one hand washes the other, since the more security I have, the more risks I can take. I think I’ve found a good middle ground!

Ultimately, I’ll have to forge my own path. I may not be stoked about it, but I’m still equal parts my dad and my mom. What do you think? Have I struck a perfect balance, or is a normal life and a normal job the way to go? Tell us in the comments, and don’t forget to share.