Bank Your Raise

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The liquor store doesn’t pay me much. $13/hour is only $26,000/year full-time. Luckily, that gig isn’t my main source of income. No one ever needs a wedding photographer on a Monday though, so I figured I may as well make some extra money on my weekdays.

I got a small $1 raise three months into that job. Starting on September 1, I’ll be banking that raise. I started that job at $12/hour and lived just fine, so I’m dumping that extra $1/hour into my investments. You can bank your raise too. It’s easy: Just compare how much you currently make per hour to what you started at, then multiply the difference by the hours on your paystubs. Throw that into investments ASAP. Here’s some math on how much you’ll save.

On my last paystub, I worked roughly 47 hours over two weeks. If I bank my raise, that’s $47. I get about 25 pay periods per year. That’s setting aside an extra $1,175/year, and that’s at the low end! What if you’ve had a full-time job for years and your raises add up to more like $5? That’s investing $10,000/year into your future! If you have a $50,000 income, that’s about what you’d need to max out your RRSP! If you make banking your raise automatic, and literally use just that step alone, your retirement will become automatic too! Even my paltry $47 per pay period adds up to $43,475 by 65 – AND THAT’S IF I DON’T INVEST IT. Invested the way I normally do, I’m looking at $200,000 JUST BY BANKING MY $1 RAISE.

As usual, run your own numbers. I’m just here to remind you financial security is easy. This is such a simple way to compartmentalize your savings, and mentally set aside money.

You lived perfectly fine when you started your job. Anything extra is just icing on the cake.

Do The Thing You Hate Most

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Six years ago, I was a little shit. I know I’m still impetuous and entitled now, but you should’ve seen me when I was 22. I was no-fucks-given personified.

My photography business was doing well. I was already shooting for thousands on good days, hundreds on bad days, and I was working part-time on film sets. I knew I had a solid skill set, and I never saw myself settling down for a Normal Job. My rule back then was “I don’t get out of bed for less than $200”. That’s not my motto anymore, but it summed up how I felt at the time. I thought I was too good for regular employment, whatever that was. I was THAT millennial.

Things changed in 2010. I realized my income, as decent as it was, couldn’t keep up with my uncontrollable spending. NBC had just let me go after the Olympics wrapped up, and I found myself without a day job and paying real bills for the first time. I applied at a liquor store because I liked fancy wine, and they hired me. Suddenly, the entitled millennial found himself working for $10/hour when he was used to billing $2,000/day, and to top it all off, it was Real Work. Mopping, taking out the garbage, cleaning windows, stocking shelves, unloading orders… all that shit. I hated it.

Mopping 8,600 square feet every day was what I hated most. I couldn’t see the point in it. Why not mop every SECOND day? Maybe every third day? No one’s actively shitting on the floor, so why did it need to be pristine? I still did it though. Not with enthusiasm, mind you, but I did it. I’m glad I did too. In retrospect, it wasn’t a big deal at all, but it’s paid off in unexpected ways.

After I retired for two years, I wanted to get back into casual liquor store shifts. I missed talking about wine, and I also needed to actually go outside once in a while. I remembered the mopping, and dreaded it. So goddamn stupid, right? I hated mopping. Then, the big day arrived: I had to fucking mop.

I dragged my sorry ass to the back and got the bucket. I poured in the Mr. Clean and whispered obscenities as I did it. I wheeled everything out to the front, and slapped the mop down. I was gonna get this motherfucker clean, but I wasn’t gonna like it. It’d take forever, I thought.

I was done in 15 minutes.

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I’m telling you this story not because I became some sort of Mop Wizard™, but because I truly believe attitude is everything. Simply acclimating yourself to an unpleasant situation somehow makes future unpleasant situations less shitty. My current store is about 3,500 square feet, HALF the area as my old store, and mopping it is a breeze! For one, I’m used to mopping now, and two, it’s 50% less work! Because I was used to how bad something COULD be, an average unpleasant task was now nothing! Experience at something makes future situations easier!

This applies to basically everything. Hate cleaning your apartment? Do it all the fucking time, and cleaning the house you buy 15 years from now will be easier because of it. Hate budgeting? The more you do it, the more likely it is you stop overspending because you’re so aware of it, you don’t want to put in the extra work to add it all up. Pretty much always, the stuff you HATE doing is stuff that NEEDS to be done. This goes back to personal development too. Just the fact you’re doing SOMETHING often means you’re making progress, and progress is happiness!

Whatever you hate doing is what you need to make the most progress on. Willingly allow yourself some difficulty in life. The more difficulty you let in now, the easier the rest of your life becomes. For all you nerds out there, think of life as an RPG. Experience is key.

If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got 3,500 square feet to mop. See you all in 15 minutes.

Successful People Say No

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“Uh, you know I literally charge 10x that, right?”

This was nothing new. A friend of a friend was offering me work, and though I appreciated the gesture, $300 to shoot a wedding just wasn’t in the cards. I politely dismissed the offer, and spent the rest of my day fantasizing about what I could’ve said instead.

“Write another zero on the cheque, and we can talk.”

“I don’t need exposure. I have exposure. That’s how you fucking found me.”

“So, is this a short-term wedding?”

I’m starting to think I might be an asshole.

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I used to take every photo job I could get because I wanted to shoot full-time. What ended up ACTUALLY happening was far from full-time, but photography’s still my main gig. I just spend way less time at it. Why? Well, I say no all the time now. It’s one of the most important mindsets a person can learn.

If I were to write a long-winded CV, my photography experience is wild: I’ve done weddings in Greece and China. I’ve shot more conferences than I can remember, but my favourite one was a medical conference in San Francisco. I’ve worked with world-class athletes, including an Olympian and one of the BC Lions. I’ve done boudoir, concert, event, newborn, sport, editorial, fashion, and maternity photography. I’m used to making $4,000/day. I shot for Royal Bank once in my living room. I have 10 years of experience, and there’s no doubt in my mind I’m worth what I’m paid. I’ve even sold fine art photography. And so on, and so on. You get the idea.

Well, you can’t have all those experiences and NOT learn a few things. One of the things I got hung up on was what felt ethical. I stopped doing fashion photography because shooting young girls in revealing outfits felt predatory to me. I stopped shooting nightclubs because I don’t think drunk douchebaggery should be promoted or glorified in any way. I stopped doing boudoir professionally because – and it pains me to say this – I’m not great at it, and I didn’t feel good charging for it. Doing it for free seemed even weirder and creepier. Then I asked myself, “What was worth my time?” $300 weddings were obviously out, and so were destination jobs. I can see some of you freaking out now, wondering why I’d ever turn down shooting another wedding in Europe. The reason? Time and money! I make more on local weddings, and destination weddings tend to be multiple-day commitments. I dropped editorial photography because getting paid $50/photo was too low, I stopped shooting newborn after getting my set peed on, and I stopped doing concerts because I started to hate crowds. It was just no after no after no. And you know what came out of all that?

I always shoot for thousands a day now, and most importantly, I became fucking happy.

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Tim Ferriss is a big advocate for getting the largest possible gains out of the least possible work. There’s no way I can do it justice here, but you should read his “4-Hour” series, and pay special attention to the chapters on Pareto’s Law. I’m not going to spoil it here, but I live by this rule. Pareto’s Law is THE reason I say no to 80% of job opportunities and STILL make enough to live on. If you want to go full Unconbentional, this is required reading. Buy “The 4-Hour Work Week”.

I figure there are two kinds of successful people in the world: “yes people” and “no people”. The ones who say yes all the time get money because there is literally nothing they won’t do. They’ll be a footstool for a day if the money is good enough. The ones who say no are the ones who rule the world. You think Annie Leibovitz jumps on a $300 wedding? FUCK, NO. And it’s because she doesn’t that she’s able to command the rates she does. She’s now worth $20M. What you DON’T do matters more than what you do. Say yes ONLY to what matters.

Don’t EVER feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do. Don’t EVER allow money to be the sole reason you do something. Don’t EVER compromise your integrity. LEARN TO SAY “NO”.

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For further reading, check out MMM’s article, “Making Space for Badassity”.

My Artist Friend, or How to Become a Millionaire While Making $700/Month

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My artist friend “A” has got it made. At only 25, she’s already invested enough in index funds to achieve $800,000+ at 65 with no further contributions. How, you ask? Here’s how someone earning less than $10,000/year will become a Millionaire in her lifetime.

“A” isn’t rich, but she’s Smart As Fuck. Her family was able to put away some money for her education, but she also did plenty of working and saving on her own. She ended up getting shitloads of scholarships though, so within a year of finishing school, she found herself sitting on $50,000! Well, fuck, I guess that money’s going into index funds! A longtime Mr. Money Mustache devotee, “A” figured index funds were the best place for her money, and at her age, IT IS. With the 7% return I talk about so much, her current $53,896 becomes $807,063 in 40 years! To make matters even more mindboggling, SHE EVEN HAS AN EMERGENCY FUND OF $14,000. We’re not even done yet, because SHE’S SO FRUGAL, THIS WOULD LAST HER 20 MONTHS. Not possible? Here’s her living sitch.

Income is a terrible indicator of success. “A” makes $700/month as a freelance artist. Over a year, that’s $8,400. Her monthly rent is only $200. That’s because she lives with three other people. She’s been with her boyfriend for over five years, and even if something terrible happens, she’s open to moving back in with family. She can live comfortably on $700/month. She spends $80 on groceries, about $45 on entertainment, and puts aside $40 for potential emergencies. Her phone costs $25, about $25 goes into dental, and stuff like clothing is practically negligible because she shops at thrift stores. She breaks even every month. WHAT ARE YOU AND I DOING WRONG.

“A” may be frugal, but she’s not living a small life. She’s already been to five countries including Japan and China, she’s done a road trip across the US, and she’s also seen several Canadian provinces. She also – like me – works at her dream job, so it really doesn’t feel like work at all. She’s practically retired already! What would YOU call it if you could do whatever the hell you wanted and just happened to make $700/month?

“A” also knows she can do better. In my interview with her, she talked about getting to $15,000/year reliably and aiming for $375,000 as her FI goal. If, right now, she puts aside just $100/month for her index funds, she’ll hit that number in 25 years! Mr. Money Mustache once said, “If You’re Not Getting Rich in your 20s, You’re Doing it Wrong”. Your twenties are the MOST IMPORTANT TIME TO SAVE because the compound interest gains are unreal. Being a Millionaire is within your reach.

“A” makes less than $10,000/year. What’s your excuse?

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