Four income streams that young professionals should develop

“According the IRS, the average millionaire in the United States has at least five different sources of income.” –James Altucher

Whether you’re making minimum wage or pulling down $250K per year, if your day job is your only source of income, you should start working on developing additional income sources. The biggest reason to do so is to start transitioning from working for your money, to making your money work for you: you need passive income sources which build wealth with minimal effort.

While you might never want to retire, financial security (not being financially stressed by losing your job) is something you can achieve in your 20’s, and financial independence (not needing to work a regular job at all ) is possible in your 30’s or 40’s.

Here are the four income streams you need to build:

1: Your day job. This seems obvious, but keep in mind that you don’t need to quit your day job to pursue your passion – you can use it to fund your passion if/until it becomes your day job.

2: Your investment portfolio. Even if you make minimum wage, you can save $25 every month and invest it in Stash Invest. If you invest $500 per month, you can be millionaire in under 30 years. If you invest $1666, you can do it in 15 years (at 10% return).  Build an aggressive but diversified portfolio with minimal fees by using a robo-trader. 

3: Your side gig. You may love your job and make great money, but it’s always smart to find something to do on the side. Side projects in your current field often allow you to be in charge of a small project and use the latest technology or techniques that are too risky or difficult to approve with your boss. I’ve used this trick to qualify for jobs that I couldn’t dream of otherwise. If you don’t like your job — here is your chance to develop a new skill! If you can’t think of anything else, try driving for Uber, put up a room on AirBnB or sell something on Etsy. If you can’t think of anything, volunteer for a cause to help you develop useful skills.  Most people find that their lifestyle grows with their income, so it is difficult to achieve a high savings rate from your day job – side gigs are a great way to generate income that goes directly into your savings.

4: Asset-derived income. This is money you earn from buying things that grow in value or generate money. For most people, this is real estate, including their own home (don’t buy one until you read this), or better yet, properties they can rent out. However, you should also consider diversifying into gold, cryptocurrency (such as Bitcoin), or other assets which you believe will appreciate in value. You should choose assets that you will hold for years if not decades because you believe in their fundamental value, and not because you’re betting on short-term trends.  For entrepreneurs, this also includes ownership in businesses which produces income from dividends.


Here’s why buying a home is a terrible idea for young professionals

Here’s the main reason why I don’t think young professionals should buy a home:

If I get fired or quit my job tomorrow, it won’t be a big deal. I’m confident that of the seven billion people on this planet, there is a person or group somewhere who will find my skills valuable enough to pay me enough to support my family. It may take me some days, months or years, and take me to Kentucky, Seattle, Shanghai, or Kathmandu, but I have no loans, debts, or any other ongoing financial commitments, so my savings will last long enough until I find the best opportunity for me.

Knowing this is very powerful: it means I can take risks and opportunities that others can’t. I can propose a risky new project to my boss, even if there is a big risk that it will blow up in my face and I’ll be laughed out in disgrace. I can propose a big new role for me, even if I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do it. I can browse open jobs on LinkedIn and seriously consider taking them even if it means dropping everything and flying across the world. I can really negotiate my rates knowing that there are plenty of other options for me.

Now consider Kathy: a 30 something with a mortgage and auto loan. In between her mortgage, insurance, taxes, HOA fees, cable contract, etc, most of Kathy’s after-tax income goes to pay for fixed costs. She can’t get out of these commitments without months of effort and a big loss.

Will Kathy make that risky proposal to her boss? Will she surf around for better jobs in Seattle? Will she be able to tell her boss that his idea stinks or drive a hard bargain when negotiating a raise? How can she, when losing her job risks not being able to pay off her house and car? She would have to scramble to find a new job before her savings run out — and she will be limited to an area within commuting distance of her house. Besides, she has her children to think about — she has to be a responsible caregiver.

Besides mortgage worries, there is the constant risk of repairs — if her roof leaks or her fridge breaks — can she pay for unexpected emergencies? Can she take time off work for the plumber or kitchen remodel during a critical project launch at the office?

A mortgage can be paralyzing for anyone who still has their prime career years ahead of them. You may as well admit “this is as far as I will go up in the world.”

Even if you have the cash to purchase a home outright, there are still many costs to consider. First, there are the ongoing costs: property taxes, HOA fees, lawn maintenance contracts, repairs and more to worry about. More importantly, paying a large fraction of your net worth to purchase a home outright is a poor financial decision: it invests a huge portion of your net work in an illiquid and risky asset. Historically, a diversified stock portfolio is both safer and gives a higher return than a home. Even if you have cash to spare, it’s still wiser to pay the minimum downpayment and invest the rest.

When we rent, it is clear that the money is a cost spent on a service. What’s not clear is that paying a mortgage is also a form of paying rent on a service — with the addition of a high-risk, highly-leveraged real estate investment, huge transaction costs, and major restrictions on your lifestyle and career options.

Make your job your primary focus in life

Our culture has shifted away from viewing work as the main focus of people’s lives.  Part of the cause is economic: most people no longer need to work hard in order not to starve to death on the streets. Furthermore, the differences between income levels is far less important: your friend might have $1 or $1 million in the bank without much noticeable difference in lifestyle, whereas it used to mean the difference between a poor house or a mansion. Another aspect of it is philosophical: we have lost the understanding that markets are responsible for civilization, and so place far less value in productive work.

Career advice for the young: your job should be your primary focus in life. This is not to dismiss the value of family, friends, etc, but as far goal pursuit is concerned, you need to prioritize your career. I see young people who come in the morning tired from video games, partying, reading books, hobbies, etc. You guys need to think hard about your life and your time management. Schedule your social life, put time limits on games, sip your liquor, whatever it takes.
Cut out the non-essential crap in your life so you can come in and perform like a rockstar every morning. Playtime is over — you’re not a kid anymore and need to start adulting ASAP. If you can’t get sufficiently motivated about your job to do that, quit now and find something that drives you to perform your best. Trust me – it will be worth it.

When I give this advice, people inevitably complain that by stressing the importance of work, I dismiss the value of family. Nevermind that young people today don’t place much value in family either – the kind of diversions I mentioned have little to do with forming meaningful relationships. In one aspect however, I think I value family more than most of my critics. I used to dismiss stay at home moms (or dads) as incomplete human beings who failed to reach their potential. Over time however, I saw the value of attachment parenting – close physical and emotional contact between parent and child is very important. Furthermore, the financial advantage of two working spouses is less than is often assumed, and misses out on major non-material costs. So I’m not so “anti-family” after all.

Finally, making your career your primary purpose in life does not mean working more hours. Not only is overwork counterproductive, but is is often the excuse to avoid taking the few, uncomfortable steps needed to actually make progress in life.  A good work life balance doesn’t mean arbitrarily delimiting work/non-work hours. It means evaluating what habits and activities in your work and personal life are worthwhile investments and which ones are not, and delegating time accordingly.

Financial success for young adults in 4 easy steps

1: Apply for any credit card with no annual fee. When you receive it, cut it up and throw it away. Every year, apply for another no-fee card, tear it up, and ask to triple the limit on your existing cards.
2: Invest $25 using an app like Stash Invest. Doesn’t matter in what, just pick any 10 stocks and keep them forever. Set it up to transfer $25 every month. Double the amount every year.
3: Don’t buy a house. Pay cash for your car with the profit from your stocks.
4: Retire at 30.