Pay Down Debt Or Invest? Implement FS-DAIR

Financial Freedom In AmericaThe decision to pay off debt or invest is a personal one that depends on a lot of factors: risk tolerance, your number of income streams, liquidity needs, family expenses, job security, investing acumen, retirement age, inflation forecasts, and bullishness about your future in general. I’ve had hundreds of people ask me this question over the years, and I’ve also struggled to figure out a good guideline for myself.  As a result, I’ve been racking my brain to figure out a viable solution that can be used by many.

The solution I’ve come up with is called, “Financial Samurai’s DAIR” or “FS DAIR” for short. The idea is to come up with something easy to remember, challenging, logical, and effective, much like the 1/10th rule for car buying to help folks maximize their wealth. Even though plenty of people have objected to my 1/10th rule for being too restrictive, I strongly believe the rule has helped people minimize financial regret and boost the incredible feeling of progress and financial security.

Since we are all CFOs of our finances, we need to figure out the most efficient use of capital. My goal is to make personal finance simple so ACTION can be taken. All talk and no action leads to nothing. I’d like to “DAIR” you to follow my debt pay down rule to achieve financial freedom sooner, rather than later.

Why I’m Paying Down My Mortgage Early And Why You Should Too

Pay down mortgage haveAfter buying my latest primary residence, I now have four mortgages. Three mortgages felt OK since one was a primary home mortgage, the other is a vacation home mortgage that produces income, and the last one is a rental property mortgage that is cash flowing nicely. But four mortgages feels like too much, and I plan on doing something about it by paying one off!

I’m sure only a small minority of you think having four mortgages is OK. Even though being leveraged in a rising real estate market is good for building net worth, eventually the good times will end.

What’s interesting about personal finance is that we all have different levels of risk tolerance. Some people aren’t comfortable with any debt, hence they don’t borrow anything. I admire such people for their ability to live thoroughly within their means. Other people let lifestyle inflation get the best of them and take out massive debt that is not comfortably supported by their income. Obtaining credit is so easy in America. The only people who annoy me are those who expect others to constantly bail them out.

One of the curiosities about debt is the joyous process of getting into and out of debt. There’s a certain thrill of buying things with debt. Everybody wants something they can’t have or fully afford, including myself. Then once we reach a maximum debt limit, it’s almost equally as fun getting out of debt. Each $1 that is paid down feels like a victory. We tell our friends about our progress and look like heroes. It’s a win both ways!

This post will review my thoughts on the ideal mortgage amount based off the ideal income amount, discuss the history of my first mortgage, share more reasons why I’m paying down that mortgage, and my new mortgage pay down strategy. 

Focus On Building Net Worth Even More Than Growing Income

Grow Your Net WorthIncome and net worth amounts are intricately linked. However, I’m going to argue that building a sizable net worth is more vital for early retirement/financial independence than generating a high income. Creating passive income is definitely a very good endeavor as well. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of uncertainty involved in the viability of your passive income. For example, my 4.2% CDs eventually came due, but nothing matches such a risk-free return any longer.

There’s even more uncertainty involved with your day job income. We all think our income will continue to grow to the sky for decades, but one day it’ll likely stop growing. We might get a new boss who doesn’t like us. Our company might get sold or go bankrupt. Departments might shutdown. We might absolutely burn out. All sorts of things could happen that will assail our income growth.

I thought my income was going to keep on growing to “make it rain” status by the year 2017 (age 40), but my income was slashed in half during the 2008-2009 downturn. It recovered in 2010 and 2011 before getting completely cut in 2012 after I left the finance industry. Only after two and a half years of working online has my income finally got back to my day job income days. Needless to say, my income is highly volatile and should not to be counted on at all! The only thing I have counted on is my consistent discipline to put away at least 50% of my after tax income every year, no matter what.

At the end of this post, let me know if you agree or disagree that focusing on building net worth is more important than growing income.

How Much Does My Car Insurance Go Up If I Get A Traffic Ticket?

Car Accident insurance going upThe first thing I did when I got home after receiving a speeding ticket was call my car insurance company to find out how much my car insurance premiums would go up. Interestingly, they couldn’t give me a straight answer.

If I get convicted and don’t go to traffic school, I will receive one point on my driving record for the 10 mph over the speed limit violation. When I asked the car insurance agent for specifics, she kept on ducking the answer. For all of you who have received a traffic ticket or will get one, this post should help give you a good idea of what’s at stake when it comes to insurance premiums going up.

What Do You Have Left To Prove?

Ship in the sunsetI like conflict because it gives me motivation to try harder. During high school I had the talent to play at an elite level of tennis if I trained more. Unfortunately, I didn’t want to work on my backhand and nobody was really badgering me. As a result, I only received “First Team All District” honors instead of achieving “All Sectionals” honors at the end of senior year. Because I wanted to spend more time with my girlfriend and I didn’t want to spend time traveling on weekends to play tennis tournaments, I never received any recognition from college coaches except for a small Division III school. I sometimes wonder what could have been if I went all out.

Nobody made me feel like a loser about tennis because I was already the team captain for two years and had a girlfriend. Girlfriend + Captain in high school is a respectable combo. I didn’t have anything to prove, so I didn’t do anything more.

But now as a 37 year old, I love playing tennis. I’ve worked on my topspin backhand religiously for three years and I’m entering tournaments now. The problem is my body isn’t as fast or as strong as it was 20 years ago. I’ve got a torn meniscus that is slowing me down. Damn. I wish I had the same enthusiasm back then. It’s because I know my time left playing competitive singles is limited, that I’m trying to do as much as I can now. When you’re young, you think everything will last forever.

There are other events that have left an indelible mark on my psyche. When I was 20 years old, four offensive linemen from the university football team came into Denny’s and attacked me and my girlfriend with racial slurs. We were used to racial conflict living in the South, but I was still pissed because they attacked my girl’s honor. Attack me all you want, but don’t attack the people I care about. The incident motivated both of us to do well for the remaining two years of school and try to become financially independent as soon as possible. I wanted to prove to them that I could rise above their bullshit perceptions.

When I was 32 years old, a junior colleague started making fun of me when I told him I was starting a personal finance site. He started making a weird face and typing on an air keyboard, mocking my idea. I guess I smiled, but inside I was thinking, you little prick. Whenever the going gets tough online, I remember back to this incident and push on through. Word has it he’s miserable at his job because he’s stuck. Welcome to the real world, buddy. Guess you should have joined me in air keyboard class.