It was the fall of 2014; I was a sophomore in college at the University of Montevallo. I was a Mass Communication major but my sister had talked me into minoring in Business, because really what could it hurt? If anything, it would force me to take classes that would help me become financially responsible, and if my major failed me there was always the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur. Okay, really I just took the classes so it would look good to add “Business Minor” on my resume, or well I told myself it would look good on my resume.
After graduating and looking back, I am extremely grateful I ended up in at least one of those classes. Which, I came to find out I really didn’t even need for a business minor, but I took it anyway. General Business with Harry Hamilton. BEST. CLASS. EVER. If you are a current Montevallo student, unfortunately, you can’t take this class. Dr. Hamilton retired in 2017.
Fortunately, I have had access to an amazing education throughout my life. I remember a lot of my teachers and professors, but even more so there are specific lessons that I have carried throughout life.
But, getting back to the point, here I am the first week of classes as a sophomore in college. I am sitting in Dr. Hamilton’s class and he walks in and the first thing he tells us is, “I am going to teach you how to be a millionaire by the end of this semester.” Of course, my ears perk up, because who doesn’t want to be a millionaire?
I will readily admit I paid more attention in that class than any of my other business classes, because of course I wanted to know the secret to being rich.
The last day before the final exam Dr. Hamilton told us the secret, “Marry for money, the love will come”. I remember the class sitting there completely dumbfounded and very unsure if he was being serious or joking.
He was joking. If you know Dr. Hamilton, you have probably heard this advice before, and you know his personality and this shouldn’t shock you. After laughing and carrying on for a little while explaining why this was the best advice we would ever receive he decided to tell us the REAL way to become a millionaire.
Brace yourselves; this may come as a shock. Dr. Hamilton told us the easiest way to become a millionaire was to start a savings account and start saving money immediately.
Again, the class sat there silently, dumbfounded and very unsure if he was still joking with us. He wasn’t. He pulled up websites and charts and explained the concept of compound interest to a room of about twenty-five students, who ranged in age from 19 to 28.
We learned how compound interest, which is interest calculated on the initial principal and also on the accumulated interest of previous periods of a deposit or loan, helps your money grow faster. Meaning, the sooner you start that savings account, the sooner the compound interest kicks in and the faster you become a millionaire.
I like to think about it as a house. Starting a savings account and your contribution, whether it is yearly, monthly, daily, whatever works best for your situation, is the foundation. The compound interest is then like the bricks that build the house. So just as you build a house brick on brick on brick, the interest builds interest on interest on interest.
I remember one of the guys who sat in the back and never spoke, said “It can’t be that easy?” After the class got over the initial shock of hearing this kid speak and Dr. Hamilton jokingly remarking about his ability to speak and participating in the lesson, Dr. Hamilton explained how it is easy, but also difficult.
It really is that easy to become a millionaire, but it requires discipline and patience, and that is the hard part. You see, that compound interest doesn’t accumulate overnight. It takes years. Several years.
It is probably the hardest thing to sit back and watch as others around you purchase new homes, cars, and other fun toys. But, is it really worth it when you are stressed out each month trying to pay for all of those new, fun things while also trying to pay the necessary bills?
Plus, I have found the shine and sparkle tend to wear off pretty quick on those new toys, but the price tag doesn’t. Being disciplined enough to save, when there are endless amounts of temptation around you telling you to spend, is not an easy obstacle to overcome.
According to this study, done by some people that are a lot smarter than I am, it takes about 66 days to form a habit. If you can discipline yourself to save a little every day for 66 days, next thing you know it will be a piece of cake to save a little from every paycheck! Even Aristotle said it, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
If I have heard this once, I have heard it a million times. Patience is a virtue. It is so extremely hard though.
We live in a society where we do not have to be patient. We have the world at our fingertips. We have all of the answers at the click of a button. It is not easy being patient but I have learned valuable lessons in learning patience.
Patience helps foster humility, gratitude and happiness. I have learned so much more and taken more pride in the things I have had to be patient and work hard for, rather than those that came so easily.
Saving is hard. Money management is hard. Being financially responsible is hard. If we’re being honest life is hard.
Going back to those life lessons I learned from teachers and educators, probably one of the most influential lessons I ever learned, besides marrying for money of course, is nothing in life worth having ever came easy.
So, if you have made it this far in this post, you’ve learned a little about my life and I hope you learned a little from Dr. Hamilton. Lucky for you, you didn’t have to pay for the class.
Marry for Money. Just kidding.
Start saving ASAP.
Compound interest is your best friend.
Be disciplined. Be patient.
Life is hard, but it’s worth it.
Have you ever dreamt of being paid for the work that you did months ago, maybe even years ago? Have you ever imagined waking up and going to work not because you have to but because you actually want to? And have you ever thought that instead of floating through life, you could discover what you were put on this Earth to do?
All the answers to these questions come together in two simple, yet very powerful words: financial freedom.
My story is like most; a middle class upbringing, nice things but nothing over the top and weekends at the ballpark. It's not until I got into professional baseball that I discovered how truly important financial education really was.
All my teammates and I constantly got caught up in seeing the huge multi-million dollar contracts. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of athletes eventually earn that huge payday. The rest of us had to figure out how to make things work on a below minimum wage salary during the season.
As I continued to play hard, I also wanted to be realistic. I asked myself, “I believe I will make it, but what if I don’t?”
So I began my research on how to make money. Looking over list after list of books to read, I started to see a pattern of the same few books in every article. I had read a few but finally stumbled onto the book that changed my perspective forever. That book is titled Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki.
This book completely flipped my view upside down on how I looked at everything involving investing and money. Prior to reading it, I had been consumed with working extremely hard to make money by “trading my time for money.”
In the book, I learned the ways of how affluent people earn their wealth; not by trading their time for money, but rather exchanging their time to acquire assets.
An asset and a liability are the two easiest terms in finance: an asset puts money into your pocket. A liability takes money out of your pocket. It’s that simple.
Once I understood this concept, it became my obsession to acquire assets. But, how could I accumulate something that I didn't even know what it was or looked like? So I kept reading and learning.
I figured out that there are three types of income; active income-which is trading time for money, portfolio income- which is making money when you buy low and sell high and passive income- which pays you without having to be actively involved.
So I said to my mentor, “So you're telling me that there is an investment out there where I don't have to do anything and it still pays me?” He exclaimed, “Yes! And it's called real estate!”
My eyes were wide open and I was giddy to learn. I asked him to explain more to me. “Here is how it works, Nolan. I buy a single family home, I find a tenant to sign a lease, then they are legally obligated to pay me rent each and every month. And once you own enough properties to have your passive rental income exceed your monthly living expenses, you will have achieved financial freedom.”
I was ecstatic. It was like I struck gold. So now my down time began to revolve around buying property to increase my passive income. I became obsessed with surrounding myself with leaders and mentors who were currently doing this. And to my surprise, almost every person I came across was more than willing to lead and teach.
I realized that each leader and mentor was actually excited to teach me about real estate! They were so passionate about teaching others; not to talk about their own success, but because they realized how impactful passive investing was in their lives that they wanted to share what they were doing with others.
Now that I am in similar shoes, I have a very similar approach. I love referring the Rich Dad Poor Dad book not because I want to talk about my successes, but because the book opened my eyes to a whole new world of how to earn money…and I want others to also experience that feeling.
The biggest lesson that I have learned from these successful individuals was how important our time is. Our time on Earth is finite and limited, so how we spend our time is what gives us true meaning and purpose.
So to come full circle, I’ve realized that if I want to pursue my passions and ambitions in life, passive income through real estate investing allows me the freedom to spend my time how I want.
If I want to go to the beach, I can. If I want to spend a week with my parents, I can. If I want to work 14 hour days on my side businesses, I can, because I am not forced to trade my time for money through a 9-5 day job. My passive income pays for my lifestyle.
This is not an ‘everybody look at me’ story. This is something that is incredibly achievable for anyone. With just a little time invested, curiosity and humble approach, your life can change for the better forever. Understanding assets and liabilities and how passive income works is what allows for financial freedom.
When I am a parent, I’ll want to go to the gymnastics meets on the weekends and coach the little league baseball teams; and real estate will allow me the freedom to do that.
And best yet and most important, I’ll be able to teach my kids the value of things in life…not just the price.
It is a beautiful day at the beach. Mom warns you not to go too far out. You say you will only go knee-deep unless you are with your big brother, but that does not last long. You go to the knee-deep part, but sand escapes from under your feet below, and waves crash up to your waist. You look back to see the shore is close. You feel safe. You are mesmerized by the shimmering water. You are already wet up to your waist, so a couple more steps won’t hurt. Waist-deep feels great! Now the waves are crashing up to your chest, but they seem gentler than before. You have everything under control. There is something moving just beyond you that draws your interest. You reach out to touch it and…..GLUB! Your are underwater, disoriented, confused. Your foundation has disappeared! You are suddenly in way over your head! You come up for air, look back, and realize that you have drifted far to the east of anyone you know on shore. You cannot find the help you need. You try to swim, but the push and pull of the ocean is stronger than your tired muscles. Will you find the strength to make it to safety? Will you drift further and further from safety? Will some stranger come to the rescue?
Debt is like that. It begins by enticing you, even though you have been warned of its dangers. It keeps you feeling safe. It even lets you feel in control, for a little while, but there is a treacherous drop-off. I know. I have been there. It started with little purchases and things that my husband and I knew we could pay off in a couple of months. Then communication broke down. One would spend without telling the other. Communication broke down. We were drifting farther and farther from the goals we had for our life together. Then came the drop-off; several large, unexpected expenses hit us at once. We were not prepared. There was a minimal savings account, but much more in multiple credit card debts. The drop-off was deeper than we could handle. With a mouth full of water and sheer determination, we kept trying to swim to shore under our own power. Who knows what might have happened, had it not been for the life preserver that eCO Credit Union provided.
With their help and A LOT of hard work, we managed, as a family to reduce our debt by over $8700, increase savings more than $1400, and still give $4000. If we can do it, you can too.
Are you knee-deep, waist-deep, or treading water and wondering when you will go under without the strength to come back up? Here are some principles that can and will make a difference. Grab the life preserver!
One of the very first stages of a breakup is denial. As I sat there looking at my credit score wondering what I had to do to get here and how on Earth I was going to get out, a simple phrase kept running through my mind, “You cannot solve a problem until you admit that you have one.”
Financial literacy isn’t something I learned much about growing up. It’s the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being. I had heard people talking about being debt free and living a life with minimal expenses but I wasn’t really sure how to get there. After college, my main goal was finding a job so I didn’t take time to establish a monetary plan for my future because I was completely oblivious to the challenges that lie ahead.
Four years later, and now with the hefty addition of grad school loans, I found myself in a state of turmoil because my money was funny but I certainly wasn’t laughing. Nowadays anybody with a Facebook page can call themselves an industry “expert”, so it took me a while to find some people and resources that I could actually trust.
In my quest for knowledge, I’ve found the best method is to release your inhibitions and embrace discipline. Your money will always be funny if you never take charge and learn to manage it. How you do that is up to you.
I used a recollections planner to throw a little razzle-dazzle on Dave Ramsey’s suggestion to use cash envelopes. I took the advice of Myleik Teele and got honest with my friends about my need to engage in free activities. I downloaded worksheets and studied the words of Rod Reedy, which helped me establish a new financial destination.
But the most valuable tool in my hunt for freedom has been the one on one time spent with my financial advisor, the money makeup artist, Tracie Threadford. She’s helping me turn my knowledge into action with monthly meetings and virtual consultations. We’ve set goals, developed a budget, implemented maintenance skills, and developed a debt elimination plan. My husband and I would like to buy a home and Tracie’s guidance helps support our vision.
Now I must admit, breaking up with my bad money habits has not been easy. I’ve been angry at my lack of knowledge and poor sense of judgment. I tried bargaining with my goals and expenses, but I was only cheating myself with that. I was depressed about my future because falling into debt is easy but climbing out is slow and tedious. But I’ve finally accepted that you cannot do better until you know better. You can only dream at the level you’re exposed to and my goal is to lay a new foundation for my family.
I want to establish a mindset of saving and wealth instead of barely getting by and instant gratification. My goal is to exemplify diligence and build habits that lead to a less stressful lifestyle. Taking the time to learn new strategies and invest in your future leads to a multitude of benefits for generations to come. Financial literacy may not be the most exciting topic or a lesson deemed important enough to teach in schools, but it is certainly a necessary building block for any successful adult.