The Barbell Principle (In Everything)

As you might know, if you follow me in any form, my favorite author of all time is Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

He is primarily known as an authority on the financial markets and risk management, but he is as well a philosopher in a general sense and a ruthless political commentator.

One of my favorite ideas in his latest and greatest book Antifragile, is something called The Barbell Principle.

He uses this concept to describe how you might want to invest your savings, if your goal is to stay unexposed to great risk, and also have real potential for profit. This is achieved by allocating the majority of your resources in completely secure assets – cash or equivalents – while putting the remaining minority in seriously volatile investments, like options.

This explains the name: you concentrate everything at either end of two extremes.

It allows you to sleep comfortably at night and still have a fast horse in the race.

Once you experiment with the principle, you find that it can be useful in many areas of life, since it often gives you the best of two worlds.

In training for a marathon, for instance, many coaches recommend a barbell–style training regiment, where you combine running very slowly for longer distances with sprint intervals. This is supposedly the most time-efficient way to improve, compared to training hour after hour at semi-high speeds.

You can take this approach to general luxuries. At one moment you live frugally, and enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Then, on occasions, you splurge and treat yourself, without making it a habit. This will enhance your feeling of appreciation and enjoyment, compared to always being semi-indulgent – a great defense against hedonic adaptations.

One more: you make sure you don’t sit in front of the computer all day, being semi-productive, mixed with random surfing. Instead, you sit down and get seriously productive in compressed and restricted time slots each day, and really make the allotted time count. The rest of the time, you stay away from the computer and do something else – that may even involve a little movement too.

Recently, I applied the barbell principle to my life in a new and profound way. I decided to quit my full-time job, in favor of a part-time job, in order to gain a greater potential for upside. How? Had I chosen to stay in my full-time position, I could easily have told you, what my personal worth would be in ten years from now. I could have estimated it, since I already knew my salary bracket and potential for promotions in the coming years.

On the other hand, with a part-time job, I will spend a part of my week making sure that I am able to pay my bills, but in the rest of my spare time, I will be able to work on my own entrepreneurial projects, that could potentially have upsides that are impossible to estimate. So now, I can safely say, that I will either do financially okay, or very good.

This also brings with it a greater sense of mystery and adventure, as the rest of my life won’t be decided for me in advance.

In what other areas of life can you apply the barbell principle, in order to improve your potential for upside?

//Max

The Inner Workings of Your Financial Freedom

Imagine if you woke up tomorrow, and knew that some magical force in the universe would take care of all your bills – every month.

How would that make you feel? How would your life be different?

Most people doesn’t realize, that it is completely within the reach of the average person to set up a system, that will virtually do this. It is by no means easy to set up such a system, and I am not even done yet myself. But I have done the research and the calculations, figured out how to make it work, and can now see that I am on the right track to getting there. It is something (almost) everyone can do, if they possess the perseverance necessary.

The goal of this post is to explain in succinct terms, how such a money machine works, and how you can build it for yourself.

Hopefully, it will allow you to start setting up your own version of what I am building today.

The automatic income machine

Below you see a sketch that describes the basic mechanism of an automatic money machine. I will go over each part, piece by piece, and explain them and how they work in relationship to each other.

We will begin in the bottom right corner, and work upwards from there:

 

Getting to finanical freedom

Expenses

The main purpose of your money machine is to take care of all your regular expenses. It is when your expenses are automatically covered, that you will begin feeling financially free, and even independent of a job. This is why the expenses are represented by the end wheel of the machinery. As soon as this aspect is handled completely, the mission has been accomplished. Therefore, the fewer expenses you have, the less “horse power” is required of your machine.

Shown with the arrows pointing inwards, is the importance of reducing regular expenses. That is, if you find it more important to be financially free, than to drink 10 café lattes a month.

So step 1, reduce regular expenses, as much as you can.

 

Investments

Now we get into the meat of this concept – your investments, that will allow you to earn enough automatic income, to cover your basic expenses.

Your investments are what makes the whole machinery work. It is the best controllable mechanism we can manipulate, by making the investment pool bigger and bigger.

The way it works, is you make diverse investments in stocks, preferably index funds, to ensure a steady return on your investments year by year. The logic is, historically, the S&P500 index has generated a return on investments of 12% a year. That is the approximated average over the last 100 years – financial crises included too.

Assuming that this is indicative of what the future will look like, you can easily expect to be able to cash out about 4% of your total investment every single year, and still feel certain, that your investment fund keeps its size and strength, even after inflation.

Since we are operating with this 4% concept, we can easily calculate how much we need in investments to have the machine fully functional. You just need to multiply your expenses with 25 (since 100/4=25).

Let’s say your regular expenses are 1,000$ dollars a month or 12,000$ a year, you would then need a total investment pool of 12,000*25 = 300,000$ to have your expenses on complete autopilot.

Now, before you freak out about how high that number seems, let me explain why it might be easier to get there than you think.

Step 2. Start a diversified investment portfolio

 

Regular Work

The simplest way to get your investment fund to grow is to do regular work, take out a part of your paycheck and invest it in stocks or index funds. This may sound tedious and really hard to do, but if you have brought down your expenses to an absolute minimum, it should be really easy to get started.

Currently, I work a completely regular job, but I am still able to put away half of my paycheck for investments every month.

As time goes by, you will begin to see some momentum growing in this process.

The more you reduce expenses, the better you get at it.

The longer you stay in your job position, the more you will earn, the more you will be able to put money aside.

And as time goes by, your investments grows and grows, and as they begin to pay off dividends, you will have even more to invest.

The momentum you get from just working and investing starts to become exponential.

Step 3. Start investing part of your paycheck every month

 

Creating automatic income on the side

The automatic income I will describe here, is going to work like a secondary helper-engine, which will allow you to turbo-charge the whole process.

In our day in age, it has gotten ridiculously easy to earn a few extra dollars on the internet, doing stuff that you are passionate about. I like writing, so I write a lot on the side, and I try to make it generate a few extra bucks here and there. The beautiful thing about internet income is that it is almost always fully automatic, once it has been established, and it can come from any creative field you like.

Let’s say you decide to follow my model, and you start a small web business on the side, which only generates 1,000$ a year in profits. This should be pretty obtainable for most people.

What this will do to the requirements of your investments, is lowering them by 25,000$(!), since you now need your investments to generate 25,000/25 = 1,000$ less every year.

What is even more beautiful, is that you will begin by generating small amounts every month and grow from there. But as you are still not at the point of financial freedom, you will keep putting these small earnings into your investment fund along the way, which will allow that to grow even faster again – and that is how to turbo charge the process!

Step 4. Start generating passive income on the internet

I recommend checking out the blog Smart Passive Income, if you know nothing about the subject.

 

And that’s the way the cookie crumbles! I would guess that most people – if they work hard at it – should be able to retire and be financially free within 10 years, or even less.

What do you think? Would you consider doing this?

 

Further reading recommendation:

–        Early Retirement Extreme

–        Your money or your life

A Life of Luxury Isn’t Worth It

Two of my favorite philosophers – Seneca and Epicurus – said it around 2000 years ago:

A life on the hunt for wealth and luxury is poorly spend.

Epicurus was the originator of the commune. He would advise people to move in together with the people they loved, work for a few hours a day, just to get their bare necessities and enjoy lots of leisure time and creative endeavors.

This idea has really resonated with me the last couple of years.

When you make the simple calculation for how much time you need to give up to pay for luxury items, say a new  BMW, you really see it this from a sobering perspective.

 

In Denmark, where I come from:

  • A new nice BMW might cost you 1 MIO DKK (all taxes included)
  • A fairly standard hourly wage, after tax is 100 DKK, but let’s say you are a high-earner and get double = 200 DKK
  • The standard working week here is 37 hours, but let’s say you are willing to dedicate your life to paying for the BMW and work double = 74 hours

This means you would have to give up:

1.000.000/200/74/52 = 1.3 years

No vacation, no holiday. And this is assuming, you pay for the car in cash – which nobody does.

Are you willing to give up more than a year of your relatively short life, just to be able to drive a nice car, that most likely, will be MUCH less exciting to you in 5-10 years?

And if you want to lead a life of luxury in general, we haven’t even begun talking about the fancy house, the boat or vacation home.

 

Obviously, I can’t say anything bad about people who loves their job, earns a nice salary and spends it on things they enjoy, like a nice car.

However, if luxury and wealth have become the primary goal of one’s life, and work is seen as tedious and as a pain, I have to assume you are getting a bad deal in the end. The amount of time you need to give up is simply too high for it to be worth it.

Rather accept what you’ve already got, and learn to be happy where you are. Do work you are passionate about, and if that allows for a more spendy lifestyle, fine! Just never let it be the reason for why you do anything.

To myself.

7 ways to let your employer have less power over you

One of the most unfortunate aspects of living in a capitalist economy is the ability of an employer to induce fear and create stress in his/hers employees.

Employers have incredible power because of this.

The obvious foundation for this power is rooted in their inherent ability, to cut off the primary income stream of an employee, by deciding to fire them.

Of course, an employer can make life a misery for an employee, by other means than just firing or threatening to fire. He can make inappropriate remarks or create an uncomfortable work environment – but we still must realize, that the only real power an employer has, is to provide us with a job or not.

If he treats us badly, we always have the option to walk away. Then we lose our job, of course, and it therefore only boils down to whether or not we have a job.

The only circumstance in which this power has any significance to us, is if we are addicted to our jobs. So in reality, this article is actually about how to become unaddicted or independent of your job – financially. If we can achieve this, our boss loses his power to scare us.

(If you have become addicted to your job for other reasons than financial ones, you might have built your identity on your job description – I then feel for you, and I don’t know how to save you. You can’t let this happen.)

Here are my 7 tips for how to become less dependent on your job.:

 

  1. Become a minimalist

We have established so far, that the only real thing an employer can give you is a job/money. If you become less dependent on your paycheck, your boss loses his power over you.

I have written a lot about how to become a minimalist on this site, but all you really need to do is stop wasting your money on the unnecessary stuff. That way, you will need way less, and you will need your boss less and less.

 

  1. Be frugal

If you begin living frugally in general terms, you will become less dependent on your job too. If you cancel all of your crazy monthly subscriptions for magazines and newspapers, if you stop wasting your hard earned money on lattes and junk food, you won’t depend on your job as much.

 

  1. Pay off debt

Once you stop wasting your money on the unnecessary, you will find yourself with some extra cash in your pocket. Use it to pay off credit card loans and other expensive debt. I think this stage will have the greatest impact on your independence.

 

  1. Start saving

When all the loans have been paid off, you start putting your spare cash away for a rainy day. That way, if your boss decides to fire you, you will be okay because you have built up a comfortable buffer. This will allow you to be a lot less stressed out if you hear rumors about new firing rounds in the company.

 

  1. Get insurance

I am currently a member of a union, where I can buy insurance that covers me if I get fired. Because of this, I sometimes hope that I will get fired from my job. My boss has no power!

However, when the glorious day comes, where I can retire, I will obviously cancel this insurance policy.

 

  1. Create a new income stream

Something that will make you truly free from the angst of losing your current job is by finding another way of making money.

How would you feel about driving for Uber for a few hours every Saturday? You could always up-scale that job in case of an emergency.

What if you had two part-time jobs instead of one full-time? That would make you much less vulnerable to being fired.

This is a thought strategy, adopted from my favorite book Anti-Fragile , by Nassim Taleb.

 

  1. Create automatic income

Having automatic income is just great in general, and there are tons of ways you can do it. Start a blog, a Youtube channel, create a drop shipping web store or get into investing.

Automatic income will be your backup mechanism, that earns extra cash for you – even while you are on vacation.

 

What about you guys?

Do you utilize any strategies, to minimize the power your boss has over you?

 

Thanks for reading.

“You don’t want to be the guy that owns the boat”

This is absolutely brilliant.

I just heard the comedian Bill Burr say the above sentence on Jerry Seinfeld’s show Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee .

You really need to see the episode, but the implication of it was this: you don’t want to be the guy who owns the boat – he needs to deal with all the harbor fees, maintenance and so on. Instead, you want to be the friend who can come on the boat, hang out, and be the hero of the day for bringing a six pack.

Of course, this is not about being a moocher and taking advantage of other people. This is about all of the great things you can enjoy in life, without being the owner of things.

For example:

  • Nature is nice, but you don’t need to own a garden to enjoy it. You can go to a park or a forest to enjoy it.
  • The beach is nice, but you don’t need to own one to enjoy it.
  • I love books , but I don’t need to own them to enjoy them. So I go to the public library and benefit from a much larger collection than I could fit into my apartment.
  • A car can be nice, but there are so many services now, that allows you to rent one on demand for a very fair price. I rent an electricity driven BMW on my smartphone every time I need a car. This makes it completely irrelevant for me to own my own car. A car is almost as big of a headache as a boat.

Not owning a lot of stuff results in fewer commitments and an easier life.

Stuff you own also depreciates in value. Saving from not owning, and keeping your money invested instead, makes you money.

Have a nice day!

Ads on a Minimalist Website?

So I recently decided to put up ads on my various blogs, including this one, to increase the passive income they generate.

I had a difficult time deciding whether or not to defile my clean and simple website like this, especially when you take in to account the frugal and non-materialistic lifestyle I am promoting. Ads just don’t seem to fit in around here.

But then again, I also see a lot of positives in doing it. So here is my argument against any objections I might receive from the minimalist police:

 

It doesn’t cost you time or money to support my work

My favorite way of making income with this blog is by writing about products I personally enjoy and use Amazon affiliate links to promote them. That way, I am only selling something I believe in, and that is relevant to the blog.

However, you have to buy it from Amazon, before I have any benefit from it.

With a classic Google Adsense ad, you don’t have to spend a dime to support my blog – you can just read my posts.

 

Gives me a better incentive to write

If I only where to use the affiliate links, I would subconsciously be more prone to write content about products, and thereby basically try to sell you something every time I wrote.

Now, after installing the Google ads, I always have a financial incentive to write about whatever I find most important and interesting.

 

This is an experiment

As I wrote about in a recent blog post, I would really love to not have to work a full-time job later in my life. This is why I am promoting a minimalist and frugal lifestyle – I want to quit the rat race as fast possible.

And one of the ways I am trying to quit this race, is by creating a profitable blog that can support me.

So the Google ads are kind of an experiment in this journey, and I will tell you about my results later on, so you might be able replicate them.

 

Install an ad-blocker extension in your web browser

I even wrote about this in an earlier post . I believe, anyone who wants to escape materialism/consumerism should protect themselves against exposure to advertisements/commercials – they simply affect us too much.

This is why I advise you to install an ad-blocker in your browser, even though I have ads on my website.

 

So that is that! Please let know what you think underneath.

Is it OK to have ads on a website that promotes minimalism?

The Ultimate Recipe For Wasting Life

I have to be honest with you; I really don’t like my current, full-time job. The job is very unfulfilling, and my boss is a jerk, so you can imagine how it makes me feel, to spend most of my waking hours at the office.

However, taking this job as my first real “adult” job has taught me some very valuable lessons.

Among many things, having a terrible job will teach you how to be super aware of how you spend your money, since you are ultimately exchanging hours of your life for objects and services.

Therefore, you will begin asking yourself: in which cases am I spending my money on stuff that doesn’t make me happy?

Of course, you might have a job that you actually like – I am not blaming you for that, but that changes everything in terms of how you should spend your money. And it leaves us with four differents scenarios:

You can either:

  • Make money in a way you love, and buy stuff that you love
  • Make money in a way you don’t enjoy, and buy stuff that you love
  • Make money in a way you love, and buy stuff that you don’t enjoy
  • Make money in a way you don’t enjoy, and buy stuff that you don’t enjoy

 

In a perfect world, all purchases are made the first way.

The second scenario can make some sense, because the thing you buy and love, might actually bring you some joy and make up for the fact that you don’t otherwise love your work-life.

Thirdly, if you buy crap for money that your loved making, it is not really a catastrophe, because the whole process wasn’t a  complete waste of your time/life.

The remaining fourth option, is what I believe is the ultimate recipe for wasting life:

Buying stuff that doesn’t make you happy, with money you earned with a job that doesn’t make you happy.

Nothing could be worse than allocating your resources (time/money) this way.

However, I believe that this is exactly how a lot of our resources are spent in a western society. I know a lot of people who are spending most of their days at a job they don’t like, and go out and spend most of their money on stuff they think will make them happy. But sadly, this rarely turns out to be the case.

It is really rare that the stuff you buy makes you truly happy. So be careful with what you exchange unenjoyable working hours for.

How I Plan to Retire ASAP (I am 27)

The headline is provocative. It also seems like an unrealistic goal for any average young man, to start preparing for his retirement right after finishing college. However, I do plan to do this, and as soon as possible.

It is important to emphasize that I am not born with a silver spoon or any other advantage. I have average parents, a job that pays a regular salary and nothing else that gets my bank advisor particularly excited.

But my mission is clear. After reading the great great blog of Mr. Money Mustache , and also the earlier posts on Zenhabits , I have gotten highly determined to work towards financial freedom. And I think it is realistic for me to get there sooner than later.

I have made a system to help me accomplish this goal, and I would like share it, in case you want to join me in quitting the rat race for good.

Key Strategy – Be Frugal, Be Minimalist

It’s important to begin by mentioning that I don’t intent to come up with a quick and extraordinary business idea, that will solve all my problems in a few months. My plan is to really earn this retirement, by changing my lifestyle to a simpler one, which is going to make the end goal really easy to reach.

The great thing about utilizing the frugal strategy is that it starts a positive feedback loop:

You save money -> you invest the saved money -> the interests on your investments will have a relatively higher value, compared to your monthly expenses, the more you save.

To quote Mr. Money Mustache: “My only superpower, is my ability to spend very little of my money”.

Of course, you can choose the strategy to instead earn more money, but saving is like burning a candle from both ends.

Reducing monthly reocurring expenses is key here. Do you have a magazine subscription or Apple Music account you might be able to cancel?

 

My Beloved Spreadsheet

So I have made this humongous spreadsheet in Google Docs, to track my progress. I input ALL relevant information to my mission in it.

Planning for early retirement

I don’t really want to show you the whole thing in detail because I want you to make your own, that is fully customized to your dreams and needs.

The neat thing about a spreadsheet like this is, if you change one tiny aspect of it – say you cancel a magazine subscription – the entire landscape changes automatically thereafter, which makes it very motivating to make even the smallest changes.

 

In my spreadsheet I track:

Monthly expenses – this is the cornerstone of the spreadsheet. The main function of the document is to calculate when I can pay for my monthly expenses with just passive income (investments, interest, blog income and others).

Passive Income – is therefore the next most important category. Here I track all the passive income I have coming in from stocks, interest from bank deposits and affiliate marketing from this and my other blogs.

Required work – is something I track mostly for fun. What if I was to quit my job today? How much would I have to work to cover my basic expenses? Currently, the number is 20 hours a week, and it is very motivating to see this number drop every time I make a new investment.

You might even argue, that I could semi-retire by quitting my job at a point, when I only needed to work for a few hours every week.

Lots of other stuff – but these are the essentials.

 

Making this spreadsheet has made me realize all of the strategies I have available to me if I want to work one getting closer to my goal.

I can either:

– Save more

– Invest more

– Work on getting more passive income (for me: writing)

This is very motivating for me. Every time I go hunting for good deals in my grocery store, I get closer to my goal. Every time write another blog post, I get closer to my goal.

 

Two More Points:

– it’s important to note, that if you plan to retire from work as a relatively young and capable man or woman, it is very unlikely that you will stop making money completely the day you stop working. With all the time in world, you will probably have to start new passion projects occupy to yourself with, and some of them might help you earn a little extra. This is why you might even be able to start your retirement a little earlier than you think if you aren’t too risk-averse.

– If this blog post is your first introduction to the concept of early retirement, I need to emphasize that you don’t know anything yet. To really get a full understanding of the concept, I encourage you to go to the blog of Mr. Money Mustache , and start reading.

 

Thanks for reading guys!

——

For more information on the subject, I also recommend checking out the book Early Retirement Extreme

How to Stop Using Toilet Paper (and Save the Planet)

I know.. This headline seems ridiculous. But I actually think that I got a nice little tip here, that I would like to share with you guys.

It has baffled me, these recent years, how we in the western world can accept ending our “bigger” toilet visits by just using paper. Seriously, no water or anything? It is actually a little disgusting if think about it.

As I heard one friend put it:

No other place on my body, besides my bottom, would I accept cleaning off poo by only using paper!

The obvious solution to this is looking to the eastern world, and watch how they do it: they use a bidet spray.

I installed one of these in my bathroom a few months ago, and my life has just gotten a little better ever since. The bidet solution is cleaner, simpler and it is even cheaper and good for your monthly budget. I mean, water is cheaper than store bought toilet paper.

But what I like most about it, is how unwasteful it is. You eliminate the need for the plastic wrapper around the toilet paper, the toilet paper itself and the transportation of the paper from the factory to the store, and then to your home.

With the bidet you just need water. Period.

To be fair, I also use a towel to dry everything, after “everything” is cleaned. The towel is then washed regularly with a little soap.

But I still think that making this change, can have a nice positive impact on the environment. And for sure, also on your wallets.

I have tried to convince many of my friends to try it as well, but for some reason, they all seem very hesitant. I don’t know why – please comment below with your opinion.

My last money saver tip: If you live in an apartment with a small bathroom, where the shower is close to the toilet. You might be able to just use the showerhead and start today – without spending a dollar.

Again, please comment below. I want to understand the resistance to this 🙂

Thanks for reading.