Shiny Things Are Stupid

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I own many shiny things. There’s a long list, but the main items up for debate are my Canon 1D X and my admittedly ridiculous collection of PlayStations (3 PS4s, 2 PS3s and 1 PS2). While the 1D can be written off as a business expense, the gaming expenses are pretty nuts. With all the screens, controllers and games added in, we’re looking at roughly $5,000+ I’ve spent on video games. Crazy, right? Or is it? Let us know in the comments, but let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of today’s post: Why are shiny things dumb, and how can omitting them from your life improve it?

I don’t drive a nice car. I’m actually driving my mom’s shitbox Corolla and don’t tell her this, but putting a few dents in it from time to time isn’t something that worries me. I get basic insurance, and MPG is something that matters to me. I crave efficiency and practicality. On the other side of the spectrum, I see all sorts of ridiculous cars in Richmond, BC where I live: Maseratis, BMWs and miscellaneous other expensive vehicles being driven by 20-year-olds. I admit flaunting wealth can be kinda fun, but when you’re 20 with an N on the back, you just look like an idiot trying to fit in. It’s obvious you didn’t earn the money to buy said vehicle, and it’s obvious you care more about appearance than substance. Don’t be a dipshit.

But wait! What if you’re NOT a dipshit and you still buy a car you can’t afford? I sat down with my friend Mike in the UK and prices are just a wee bit crazier over there. This is the story of his Toyota GT86. In his words:

“Toyota Gt86 list price in U.K is £28000. I pay £460 a month for the car, then i have to pay car tax and insurance plus budget for fuel which has been high in proce over here. around £1.20 per liter. ($2.45)”

UH, WHAT?!? Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t £28,000 about $52,723.06 in Canadian dollars? His £460/month payments are like $866.16! That’s like Vancouver rent, just for a tiny room with wheels! He also pays twice what we do for gas: £1.20 is about $2.26. WHAT. My immediate question is whom he’s trying to impress. If it’s women, I’d like to point out financial stability is far sexier in the long run than an overpriced sports car. But hey, I get it; I have toys too. IT’S JUST THAT MINE ARE 10X LESS COSTLY. But wait, it gets worse.

“as part of my contract, i have to have my car serviced by the dealer every year and there are different grades of service. my first was around £180 for oil and filter change basically which should be classed as fucking thef because i could do it myself for 1/4 the price.”

Don’t even get me started.

“year 2 was supposed to cost around £450 at toyota for the more detailed service. i found out i could get it done at any vat registered dealer. my friend has his own garage, he basically charged me for parts and a little labour. It cost me £190”

In short: Fuck you, Toyota.

I may be $22,535.05 in debt, but that was a series of hundreds and hundreds of minor mistakes. Mike made One Big Mistake and fucked his financial future in colossal ways. Luckily, he’s getting rid of it soon, and for good reason. The last time I saw him, a massive hailstorm had just hit Newcastle. His shiny GT86 was suddenly peppered with tiny dents. He lost his shit. Why put so much money into something that only causes you stress? That seems like a shitty investment! But wait, you wanna see numbers, right? Let’s run ‘em: $52,723.06, if I invested it now at 27 averaging 7% interest, IS $689,579.21 BY RETIREMENT AT 65!

Mike, sell the goddamn car. I know you’re reading this. Sell the goddamn car. Your future depends on it.

That’s just one example, but if you’re ever gonna succeed in life, you need to stop being so precious about the shit you like to keep pristine. Your shiny car is bullshit. The $1.2M mansion you’re pulling 70 hours a week for is bullshit. My PlayStation collection is bullshit. None of it matters. If it’ll cause you stress when it’s inevitably compromised in a way that WILL COST YOU EVEN MORE MONEY, it’s a poor investment. However, if it SAVES you money, or GENERATES money, you’re in the clear. That’s why my Canon 1D X isn’t stupid. That camera can make me thousands in a day. That can stay.

Here’s a Compound Interest Calculator. The next time you’re considering a Large Purchase, figure out the Real Cost and how much Money you’d have if you invest it instead. I calculate for 7% because I invest in US index funds. Literally NEVER skip this step. If you follow this advice, you’ll be richer than you ever dreamed.

See you when you’re Retired. Fancy some PlayStation?

The Bens Conquer North America!

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Ben and I started this blog with the best of intentions, but month after month, we’re proving to be better examples of what NOT to do instead of being the personal finance wizards we like people to think we are. Since you’re already aware of my Questionable Spending Habits, maybe it’s time to update you on The Other Ben – pictured above – who recently moved to NYC to participate in a three-month programming retreat…

Ben is one of the smartest people I know. He’s so close to a six-figure salary, I freak out and flip tables every time I think about it. Before his move, he was averaging an estimated monthly expenditure of $1,750, or $21,000 a year. When you take a step back and remember how much he makes on average, it’s mind-blowing how fast he’ll reach Retirement. He’s 27 and had he stayed on course, he would’ve reached his Retirement Number of $525,000 by 38 like he planned. (Many of us in the personal finance community use The 4% Rule when mathing our Retirement Numbers.) Well, Ben quit his job recently to go to New York, so his current salary is actually $0.

This won’t set him back though. If anything, the things he’ll learn and the people he’ll meet at his programming retreat will help him reach his six-figure salary even sooner. In the long run, as long as Ben returns to his high-earning and thrifty ways, he’ll still be able to Retire by 40.

February was a spending disaster for Ben. He made it very clear I could only post these numbers if I made it obvious this wasn’t his usual spending. He’s renting in the US and Canada while he moves, and paying phone bills in both countries. Total expenses for February: $3,387.28. His Rent for both places was $1,650 of that. Food came to $750.20 as he explored his new neighbourhood. Honestly, I would’ve done the same. One surprise I noticed was he didn’t have an Alcohol category. Could he really have spent ONLY $750 on food AND booze? Holy shit. What kind of monster does that? I’m too embarrassed to even mention my Alcohol spending. It’s more than $750 and that’s all you need to know.

An interesting thing to note is Ben’s spending in February was almost exactly what I spent in January. The main difference is what he spent in Rent, I spent on Alcohol. At this point, I’m full on acknowledging I have a Drinking Problem, and March is already looking better. I’m keeping myself busy by taking on more photo clients, and my Alcohol consumption is way down. If you can believe it, we’re now seven days in, and my Alcohol spending is literally at $0. There’s hope for me yet.

What questions do you have about our spending? Any tips? What else would you like us to track? Let us know in the comments.

What I Learned by Retiring for 2 Years

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Realizing I didn’t need a day job anymore was pretty freaking cool. I figured this out in 2014.

2014 was a year of both awesomeness and shittiness. I lost my dad that year. I also inherited the money I needed to get out of my substantial debt – $25,000 at the time. Since I’m the Dumb Ben though, I wasted no time at racking up more debt. I owe $19,000 now. More on that later. I was also able to get my place sorted out. I’m now the owner of a 99-year leasehold property in Richmond, BC. For those of you unfamiliar with leaseholds, I basically own the property, just not the land underneath it. I have 72 years left before I get booted out. I’ll be homeless at 99. More on that later too.

The remaining 72 years are all paid off. It was $170,000. The strata fees and property taxes are 100% covered by the rent I charge my roommate. I’m super lucky, and as I type this, I can already hear the lynch mob forming. At 27, I don’t have rent.

That’s not to say I do nothing. I have a successful wedding photography business, and charge up to $4,400 for my packages. I hardly count it as Work though. I love every part of what I do, and outsource the stuff I don’t like, like editing. On my last $4,400 wedding, I outsourced virtually everything except the actual photography. Time investment: 1½ days. The lynch mob is banging on my door now.

So with my photo “work”, food was covered too, and then some. Now what? For me, the answer was Retire. Sure, I’m cheating a little bit, but I was “working” around 30 days a year, and was frugal enough that I could live off that. I don’t care what you say. I was fucking Retired.

No lies, it was great at first. I could get up at 4 PM, slam two beers, play Minecraft until 9, then hit the pub. I got to see my friends and family whenever I wanted. I’d go on adventures, disappearing into the US for weeks at a time. I even made it to the UK for my friend’s wedding, and made some great memories there. And then… I just sat on my ass a lot.

Like, A LOT. What I didn’t know was the first 40 hours of Minecraft are pretty fun. The next 200 hours are significantly less so. I started gaining weight. I developed a drinking problem. My mental health started to suffer. Getting together with my friends got more challenging, since they had work and families, and I just kind of had… nothing. My life, without Work, suddenly had zero Meaning. I was suddenly a depressed slob who couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a shower. Since I only ever worked at weddings, and was always too focused on taking pictures instead of interacting with people, I’d often go weeks without an actual conversation. I mean, it’s no wonder so many people die right after retiring. Read this. Without a purpose in life, even if that purpose is as silly as earning money, why go on?

I realize this sounds like the privileged whining of a 1%-er, and in many ways, you’re right. I have what a lot of people want. I thought I wanted this too. I want you to reconsider Retirement though. What would you REALLY do if money were simply not an issue? What would you do with your life if you had an extra 8 hours every day? If you’re the type of person who’s so hard-working that you can Retire early, what makes you think suddenly having NOTHING to do will make you feel good?

After two years of mild existential terror, I figured it out. Retirement wasn’t about doing nothing. It was about finding out what had Meaning to me. Meaningful employment is important, even if it doesn’t earn a bunch of money. I currently sell wine to people for $13/hour when I’m not shooting weddings. I don’t need the money, but it gets me out of the house. I don’t drink as much now. I shower more often. I have real conversations with people. I get to talk about fine beer, wine and spirits, which is a passion of mine. And to top it all off, the money I make goes into getting me out of debt, and profitable investments for the future. I had Meaning again. I was choosing to Work. Even though I’d “made it”, I needed Work to feel whole.

Rethink Retirement. You can Retire and work on something you love, and if it happens to make enough money for you to live on, guess what? You’re Retired! Get a job that doesn’t feel like Work. Get a job that gives you more Time. Get a job that has Meaning. I know it’s not as simple as all that, but make it a goal. All of this is better than the fantasy of never having to work again. Trust me, you’d probably hate it.

Oh, hey. That lynch mob is ringing the doorbell. I should probably let them in.