Always Work On Improving Cash Flow For Financial Independence

Cash Flow For Financial Independence

Cash Flow by Jo Z-Sunny

The other day I asked a very wealthy entrepreneur about his main financial concern. He’s probably worth anywhere between $50 million to $75 million dollars. Given he has so much money, I thought his answer would be more philosphical, like “making sure my kids appreciate the value of money,” or “how to create a lasting legacy.”

Instead, the entrepreneur responded, “My biggest concern is making sure I have enough cash flow to maintain my lifestyle.”

I initially thought the answer was odd because why bother measuring cash flow given he can simply draw down principal to fund his lifestyle forever. $500,000 here, $1 million here, who cares? He’s still left with tens of millions of dollars left over! But maintaining a lifestyle that is meaningful to you is what having money is all about.

Many people with tremendously high net worth figures don’t have nearly as much LIQUID net worth as one would assume. People mistakenly think that just because someone has a $10 million net worth, that they can withdraw 10 million $1 dollar bills and make it rain. Instead, high net worth individuals likely have much of their net worth tied up in equity stakes that could disappear if a downturn like 2008-2009 ever happened again.

Just look at the guy who founded CNET, the technology online review site. He was worth $2 billion dollars, but after a divorce and leveraging up in 2007, he filed for bankruptcy. Every super wealthy person I know is well aware of how ephemeral wealth is. This is why buying real assets, like property or fine art is so attractive to many equity millionaires.

It’s Impossible To Stay Retired Once You Retire Early

Retired couple by Sebastian Flickr Creative CommonsIn the spring of 2012, I hung up my sword after working in finance since 1999. There was actually a hiccup the very last day of work, a Friday. When I was e-mailing some personal files from my work account to my personal account (pictures, tax docs, etc), I inadvertently e-mailed a five year old client file that was caught by compliance. I was warned this was a violation of company policy and that I would be hearing from them about any repercussions the next week. I apologized for the mistake and waited nervously about the fate of my severance check.

To allay my worries, I actually went to a free Hastings School Of Law community service event where law students and professors helped those with legal questions. They just so happened to host the event on what I thought was the first free weekend of the rest of my life. It was great to see the school give back to literally hundreds of people regarding questions about divorce, employment, accidents, theft, trusts, and more.

My question to a professor and to a law student was simply, “Can my firm take away the agreed upon severance contract due to a five year old company file that I inadvertently sent to myself?” Financial companies are notoriously strict about ex-employees transferring sensitive client documents that can be advantageously used against their old employer if they join a competitor. I told my company that I was retiring from the finance business altogether, but how could they know I was really telling the truth? In our business, few people voluntarily walk away from such paychecks.

After getting comforting council saying that I should be fine, I promised that day to NEVER go back to work in finance if I could still get my severance and deferred compensation. My new manager was in from New York City that day and was already busting my balls for the incident. I went a step further and promised to never go back to working for anybody. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were at stake and I was worried.

HR called me the following Tuesday and told me everything was fine in the end. They agreed the client file was irrelevant given it was five years old, and accepted my e-mail apology for the mistake. Once I got my severance check several weeks later I felt like I had sheepishly won the lottery. Instead of spending it all, I sat on it like I would any financial windfall. By the summer of 2012, the market had taken a little dive and I finally invested the entire amount in the stock market so as to make it disappear. I wanted to stay hungry and pretend I received nothing. 

How To Save More Than $100,000 A Year Pre-Tax: Open A SEP-IRA Or Solo 401k

SEP-IRA by American Advisors GroupOne big goal on Financial Samurai is to highlight to readers what is financially possible. Once you know what is possible, you minimize your limiting beliefs and tend to strive much farther. Through close to eight hours of research and production, this post will explain how you can add more than $100,000 every year pre-tax to your retirement account if you have the right employer and proper strategic money making mindset.

The 401k maximum contribution for 2015 is $18,000. The increases will likely continue by $500 increments every year or two to keep up with inflation. Contributing $18,000 pre-tax a year for 30+ years will most likely make you a millionaire by the time you retire. Unfortunately, $3 million is the new $1 million, and in 30 years, $7 million will likely be the new $1 million if we assume a 3% annual inflation rate!

The 401k is not enough for most people to retire on. Sure, we potentially have Social Security to help us when we reach, at the earliest, 62 years of age. But I wouldn’t count on the government to properly manage our money until then. Beyond maxing out a 401k every year, I encourage everyone to also invest at least 20% of their after-tax, after-401k money into a diversified investment portfolio.

As a contractor over the past year, I’ve discovered something that will really supercharge one’s pre-tax retirement savings. The discovery still seems too good to be true, so for any of you tax gurus out there, please speak up and correct me if I’m wrong. We are going to crowd source this post into one of the best maximum pre-tax retirement posts around. The research I’ve done is based off the IRS website, my own experience, and speaking to Fidelity’s small business retirement department where I have a rollover IRA, SEP-IRA, and Solo 401k.

Maximum Taxable Income Amount For Social Security (FICA)

Uncle Sam The Tax ManFICA stands for Federal Insurance Contributions Act and consists of a Social Security tax and a Medicare tax. This tax is very important for everyone to understand because so often we only think about federal tax rates and state income tax rates. The FICA tax is a big percentage of your total tax bill, especially for those making under six figures a year.

When I was making big bucks in finance, the tax bill was equally big bucks. The only saving grace was seeing my after tax paycheck increase after the maximum taxable income threshold for Social Security was breached each year. The tax amounts were jolting based on how inefficient the government was and still is with regards to spending our money.

For 2015, the maximum amount of taxable earnings for Social Security rises to $118,500 from $117,000 in 2014. In other words, an employee must pay 6.2% of any income up to $118,500 for 2015 = $7,347. But any dollar you make above $118,500 is free of the Social Security tax. Hence, a good goal for everyone is to make as much as they can over $118,500 as possible, right?

Not so fast. Given we have a progressive tax system in America with Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and deduction phaseouts, I’ve calculated that the optimal Adjusted Gross Income is roughly $250,000, +/- $50,000. At $250,000, $131,500 of the earnings is free from the 6.2% Social Security tax. Meanwhile, you still get most of your mortgage interest deduction, and only have to pay a slight amount of AMT, depending on the person. A $250,000 income is also high enough to live relatively comfortably in any part of the world.

Some might argue that the Social Security tax is regressive because it caps out at $118,500 in 2015. Why shouldn’t rich people pay more? Here’s the thing people might not understand. Social Security benefits cap out based on the maximum amount of Social Security tax contribution as well. It’s not like someone who is making $500,000, and not having to pay the 6.2% Social Security tax on $381,500 of his earnings is getting extra benefits based off his $500,000 income. He’s just getting the maximum Social Security payout amount when it comes time for him to collect based on the maximum taxable income amount he contributes.

The $500,000 income earner is already paying the highest marginal federal tax rate of 39.6% plus state taxes, if applicable. 

Make More Money, Save More Cash, Grow Your Net Worth Now!

Big Goals by Sergiy MatusevychHappy New Year Everyone!

I hope everybody is locked and loaded to get… loaded again in 2015! It’s somewhat arbitrary to set goals at the beginning of each year, but there’s no use fighting the power. The beginning of the year is when a large amount of assets get deployed into various investment classes. The beginning of the year is also when companies aggressively hire and spend their budgets. And the beginning of the year is when everybody is full of hope.

You want to be front and center!

Let me first discuss five basic and important financial goals everybody should achieve. I’ll then highlight my personal goals for 2015.

The Rise Of The Chief Content Officer: The Next Hot Job Of The Decade

Raygun Rocketship SFEvery year I tend to discover one significant thing that fish-slaps me in the face based on some sort of experience. This year, it’s the realization of the next high demand job of the decade.

You know how computer science and software engineering jobs have become all the rage over the past 10 years? I predict that any job that has to do with creating content online is going to blow UP in 2015 and beyond. For those of you still in college, take as many classes on web development, creative writing, and online marketing as possible. For others who are looking to switch careers, now is the time to build your resume and take the leap if you like this field.

The most senior of these content-related jobs is Chief Content Officer, followed by Director Of Content And SEO, and Director Of Engagement And Social Media. For the past 12 months I’ve been intimately involved in developing a content marketing strategy for a financial technology company. I’ve edited, written, sourced, curated, SEO optimized, and help grow the company’s brand online through their blog and social media channels. Brand awareness has gone up, marketing costs per result has gone down, and lead generation has grown. Such a job is slowly beginning to pop up all over the place.

A company can no longer just have a website to do business. A company must also have a coherent and effective content marketing strategy. Every single startup or established firm will be hiring a Chief Content Officer or Director Of Content soon enough. This bodes well for struggling journalists or editors of traditional media companies who have been hollowed out due to the desecration of offline content consumption. The natural path is for senior management to hire such journalists and editors due to their pedigree.

But I argue there is someone even better to fill the CCO role: the pro blogger who has organically built a brand from the ground up and displays the combination of creativity plus business savviness.

Investment Lessons From The Most Profitable Trades Of 2014

Investment Lessons Learned by AjariOne of the 10 misses in my 2014 year in review post was missing out on some great investments. I truly believe there are fortunes to be made every single day if we look hard enough. The problem is, we all get busy with our lives and don’t really bother.

Part of the reason why investors hand their money over to professional money managers is so that they at least know someone is spending their working hours trying to make them money, even if it is for a fee. The busier I get, the more amenable I am to farming out more money to people who pick stocks for a living. That said, I’ll never stop chasing unicorns.

Take a look at a pretty sweet infographic created by Motif Investing on some of the most profitable investment ideas of 2014. We’ll then discuss some investment lessons at the end of the post. The benchmark comparison is the S&P 500, which has returned roughly 13% YTD.