Author

listing properties to sell
Daily life, Real Estate,

I am listing two of my properties!

Hi fellas,

Last week I decided to list two of my properties: Rental Property #1 and Rental Property #2. I want to keep you posted regarding why I did this.

Rental Property 1 – my first rental ever!

First, RP#1. I moved to this property this month, and I love living in it. My tenants left the property in a perfect shape (pretty much how I handed it to them) and it looks lovely. Here is the data as of today:

  • Acquisition cost and remodeling = €31,500.
  • Balance on the property (deducting net rents) = €28,000.
  • Current property value = about €50,000.
  • Listing price = €54,000.
  • Commission to sell = €5,000 + VAT = €6,150.

This means that if I sell at market value (€50,000) and I have to pay a 5k+VAT commission, I will end up with €43,850. From this, I gotta pay 28% on capital gains. This property VPT is almost €40,000, so there is no actual profit until €40k. If I sell for €50k, I can write off the 5k+VAT commission and therefore end up with a taxable capital gain of about 4k. From this, I can write off about 1k in expenses, including property transfer taxes (when I bought it). This means that the final taxable capital gain is about 3k and I need to pay 28% of that, which is about €850.

So, if I do sell for €50,000, I end up with €43,000. The Real Estate agent (I’ll explain in a bit why I am not selling this property through my own company), however, told me we may sell for €52k or even €53k. This sweetens the numbers up. In the worst case scenario, though, I will end up with a net profit of about €15,000 on this property. Not bad for a €31,500 – I’ll end up very close to a 50% cash on cash return!

Why sell?

…especially if I just moved in? I realized that with this kind of money, I can buy another property for myself (hopefully a 2-unit property, so that I live in one and rent the other out), remodeling it, and put €10k to work! This stroke me when I recently found a very nice condo for less than €20,000. I am not sure yet where I would put the €10,000 to work, but I’d probably split them between P2P, bonds, and stocks (a third each). More than the €10,000, I am particularly eager to buy a 2-unit property. This is the last proof that I have an investing-tailored mind: even my primary home has to return something financially.

Rental Property 2 – a great buy and hold

OK, RP#2 is a totally different ball game. When I mentioned the agent that I wanted to sell RP#1, he told me “don’t you want to sell RP#2 too? I may have a buyer for around €80k”.

RP#2 is one the best deals of my life. It generates almost €6,200 per year, and generates extra cash after I pay the mortgage off. Plus, it is a nice 3-unit property that I bought for less than €40,000. Because I got a mortgage on this property, I only had to put in about €9,000 so far (because I pre-payed 3k of the mortgage!), and I’ve collected about €6,500.

If I sell for €80k, I need to pay a €5,000 + VAT commission, which leaves me with €73,850. Then, I need to pay the mortgage off (currently at €34,500 with a 2% pre-payment penalty). This leaves me with €73,850 – €35,200 = €38,650. I also need to pay high capital gains, because I only have tax-free gains up to €64,000. This leaves me with a taxable tax gain of about €10,000, from which I can only write off about €1,000. On the €9,000 I need to pay about €2,500 on property taxes. So, at the end, selling for €80,000, I’ll end up with about €36,000, with is a 400% cash on cash return. Selling for €75,000 calculates into great numbers still, so I do hope this deal goes through.

I am not yet sure what I will do with the €30k+ that I will net from this property, should I sell it. Most likely, I will find a fix and flip deal and put the money to work there, or find another buy and hold that I buy with this money exclusively. I don’t mind making about €250/mo (vs €500+ I am making with this property), if I lower my liabilities (before the bank) AND I go after a deep value deal (meaning I buy for €30k+ but the property is worth at least €45k+). Ideally, I want to put the money to work fast and extract a high return until the end of the year.

Changing strategy?

As a buy and hold preacher, am I changing my strategy? No. I simply acknowledged that I can make quick money this way, and I believe that in the long run, I will achieve higher volumes of rent this way.

Why not selling through my company?

If I have a RE company, why not selling these properties through my own company? RP#1 is not adequate – I only have investors as buyers and RP#2 may fall short in terms of ROI. Note that if I sell for €80,000, that will mean a gross annual return of less than 8%. After taxes and property taxes that may mean about 4,5%.Also, this is an old property and renovation may be needed at any time.

To investors that look for our company, we usually propose properties that can are distressed and needed to be entirely rehabbed or properties that expectantly won’t need much maintenance over the next years. This property can actually be attractive before the local market, for investors that are happy with moderate returns. At the same time, I don’t lose anything to list it – there are absolutely no costs and it will continue to be rented in the next years.

how to set up a real estate business
Lifestyle, Planning, Real Estate,

How to set up a Real Estate business

Many people ask me how the can set up a Real Estate business as I did. Just to be clear, I am not talking about my Real Estate company or my consultancy business; I am talking about a Real Estate business composed of many properties that you buy and rent out (typically kept under an LLC). This is comparable to your own Real Estate Trust. Currently, my Real Estate includes 10 units and generates about $1400 in passive income every month.

How to set up a Real Estate business

You can certainly set up a Real Estate business in many different ways. However, what I explain in the following is the way I used to set up my own business. Not only my business is working fine, as I also witnessed at least one of my clients to experience the same degree of success. So, without further due, let us get to it.

Step 1: Save some money

I would attract way more viewers from Google if I wrote: “buy Real Estate without any money down” or “invest in real estate without money”. However, I will be pretty honest with you… You’ll need some money to set up a real estate business as I did. I personally bought my first property (a condo) all cash, after liquidating my stock portfolio. It was about 35K for me. However, I invest in Portugal, where properties are cheap (especially if you compare them to most markets in the US).

Say you don’t have a good pay and you really have to struggle to save some money. Well, I am not going to lie to you, this may be time-consuming. If your salary is low, you need to find other ways to increase your income and save money aggressively.

If your salary is high enough, you’re all set. Simply throw money to a savings account every single month. The minimum you need to spend is 20% of your first property (for the down-payment to the bank, assuming you need 20% down) plus the closing costs on the property. Those you need to check from property to property.

Step 2: Get credit approval first

I’ve seen a lot of people making this mistake: going out for shopping without credit approval. This is a big mistake because you may never get approval, which means that the entire period you were looking for a property is wasted. It may also mean that you submit an offer for a property which you don’t have enough money to back up.

Don’t waste time, or even worse… get yourself into trouble. Simply get your letter of approval from the bank before anything else.

Important note: in many countries like Portugal, you must have a property under contract before the bank gives you approval. Talk to me if you have questions about this process.

Step 3: Find great, honest contractors

I always invest in distressed properties because typically rehab costs are not priced correctly in distressed properties.

As such, I need to surround myself with great contractors. I always get to know if contractors are legit and honest. The truth of the matter is, there are many dishonest contractors. Their job is simply favorable to report extra hours or extra materials: nobody is there to really check how long they worked and what materials were in fact used.

My recommendation is not to go shopping without getting to know two different contractors. Here are some great tips to hiring contractors.

Step 4: Make friends with proactive Real Estate agents

I can’t stress this enough.

Unlike the stock market, where pricing rules don’t really depend on the brokers you know, Real Estate is not like that. Real Estate is a much more personal business, and most of the aspects of your deal depend on other people. But it doesn’t end with the tenants…

Knowing proactive Real Estate agents is the key to finding great deals. At least it has been for me. I made sure I got to know many real estate agents and became friends with them. Eventually, I was offered many deals before they were actually released to the public. I highly recommend you to check local legislation and check whether this is legal in your state or country. This is absolutely fine in my markets, according to the local legislation. Make sure you don’t get yourself into legal problems.

Step 5: Find deep value deals

This is probably the hardest step to accomplish. It also shows why you need to be good friends with Real Estate agents: this will accelerate and make the process a lot simpler.

If you check my real estate and previous posts, you’ll see that I focus on multi-units that I can buy at a huge discount. For instance, I explained my strategy to find awesome multi-units for low prices. I am not saying you should necessarily go for multi-units. I am simply saying that for me, they are like a sweet spot in my markets. Maybe they won’t be the sweet spot for you, I don’t know. But my point is… come up with a sound strategy and test the market until you find your sweet spot. Your corner. Once you do, stick to it.

Regardless of what corner you choose, make sure you always go for the deep value deals. What is the most effective way to make money through Real Estate. I always buy properties that are worth 2-4 times more. How can I possibly lose money that way?

The trick to finding deep value deals? Seeing value where nobody does. A distressed property that looks like the last place where you want to live is likely to be undervalued. The reason for that is because people look at Real Estate emotionally. They wouldn’t live there, so it is must be worth little… they won’t do the math and sum whatever they would have to spend to make it look good.

You, as a Real Estate investor, have that ability. Just find those properties. Instruct the agents you work with you to find them. Look for them yourself. Relentlessly. That is the secret.

Step 6: Always inspect the properties before closing

Remember I advised to get to know good, honest contractors? They will come in handy in this step: just call them up and let them know you are considering a property. Asked them to visit the property with you and estimate rehab costs. They may be wrong because contractors won’t be able to accurately estimate the costs unless they usually check the foundation (which is not always checkable without damaging the property). However, this will give you an idea of how much you should look at. My advice? Increase the estimate by at least 20%. Play safe, no surprises.

OK – you’ve got the numbers. Run them. Is it a good property (I use the 7-year rule to check that)? Close, then!

Step 7: Remodel the properties… intelligently

Renovating a rental is a heck of a whole new topic. You can simply remodel the property and throw a lot of cash into it, or you can do things intelligently. The truth of the matter is that you can rehab one property in various different ways with the same budget, but some make it look much better. I provided several examples on a different post, which show that 10 dollars worth of tiles can make a bathroom look way better:

kitchen remodel kitchen design home renovation costs

I also suggested having a look at magazines to have ideas for your remodeling!

Make sure to track the expenses on the property since day one, too!

Step 8: Monetize!

Any investment has to yield a return. Unlike stocks and bonds, in Real Estate, it is up to you to monetize it. Your properties won’t return any money unless you monetize them, that is the cold hard truth. There are some tricks to monetization, though.

The first thing I recommend is to use craigslist (and craigslists competitors) to advertise your properties. Note that there are many housing scams on craigslist, so do not strange if people ask too many questions and double check data often. I like to use facebook pages. The big advantage to Facebook pages is that you can invite your friends to like it and you can ask your friends to invite their friends. I talked about this in my series of tips to Real Estate investors).

The key trick is to have as much exposure as possible. If a lot of people see your property listed for renting, you’ll rent it out eventually. This is not rocket science.

Remember… always create value!

If you follow my blog you already know my philosophy, when it comes to Real Estate investing… above-average quality for below-average prices. In fact, that is my philosophy for every single one of my businesses, including my consultancy business.

The truth of the matter is that if you want to buy and rent one home, you don’t have to be concerned with value markets. However, if you set up a business, you’ll have to make sure that you know the market numbers and you pay with them. Setting above-average quality to below-average price is really how great businesses are built. If you wonder why this is sustainable, be aware that I recommend you to find deep value deals. That means that you will have huge margins to play with. And what I suggest is to leverage those margins to offer great products at great prices. This will not only make you find tenants quicker – it will also make you have tenants for longer periods. And vacancies must be taken into account when calculating ROIs too!

There are a few other things that you should consider when starting a Real Estate business, including insurance and a solid business plan for real estate investing.

Is there anything missing in this strategy, in your opinion? Let me know, I will cover that too!

banknote-1396286_960_720
Lifestyle, Planning,

Spend money to make money

Over the years, I changed my philosophy as far as spending money is concerned. Today, I think that it makes sense to invest money, but it wasn’t always like this…

online income report income diary report how to make money online
Reports,

May 2017 (Online Income: $172.50)

Welcome to my income diary. If you wonder how do websites make money and how to make money with a website, you may find my reports useful.

I release reports on my online income every month. In 2017, I am projected to make $15k on online income.


I’ve received many e-mails concerning this matter. Most people ask me “What can I do to start a side online business?” or “What can I do to make a few hundred bucks at the end of the month”? First, know that I offer consulting services for this, on 1:1 consultations. Either way, let me hash out a general recipe here:

0) Choose a niche. Many people choose niches based on keyword search. I highly recommend people to blog about what they are passionate about instead. If you add value, any niche will work out for you.

1) Set up a website. I host my website on Bluehost, which I highly recommend. For one, its cheap, two is highly reliable. If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, I created a tutorial here, to help you start off.

2) Blog. A lot. You may have noticed that I’ve posted twice in the month, on specific months when I started From cents to Retirement. Doesn’t work. It won’t tie people in, it won’t please search engines and your blog will rapidly be forgotten. Note that I am not saying “publish crap”. Do not, if you expect to have loyal fans and grow. But do not forget to publish.

3) Promote your blog. A big part of having your blog out there for people to see is through high-quality posts – eventually, people will share. Promoting your blog will not only get it out there faster but deeper. Promoting your blog can be very hard, but its necessary.

4) Monetize. Adsense is an option. I like Amazon a lot. If you offer consultancy services, as I do, you need to show you can do it yourself first, but clients will pop up eventually.


So, how did I make $172.50 this month? First, the breakdown:

Bluehost : $0 (vs $0 in April)
Affiliate marketing : $72.60 (vs $55.50 in April)
My book : $99.94 (vs $21.21 in April)
Consultancy fees : $0* (vs $1050 in April)
Google adsense : $0 (vs $0 in April – I removed all ads from the blog)
Paid surveys : $0 (vs $0 in April)

Total : $172.50

Disclaimer: the BlueHost and the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that I get commissions if you buy products or services through them. The amounts reported above are before any fees, taxes or expenses. I can’t say exactly how much I will net from this.

As for consultancy fees: I haven’t consulted this month, at least not more than the hours I had already sold. I received a ton of new requests, but my time was so limited that I didn’t accept any yet. I will consult big time during June for sure! I already secured some contracts. In the next two months, I hope to surpass the $2000 mark on consulting alone.

Note that although I am committed to release my income diary and help those who want to know how to make money with a blog, if they and blogging for money, my primarily focus is not to make money with the blog, but create a very valuable platform that people love.

Expenses

I didn’t have any expenses with the blog this month.

Views

I am happy with the direction the blog is taking, and I prefer to have 25k warm viewers than 100k cold viewers. That being said, I still want to achieve 100k viewers until the end of the year! We are obviously talking about a nasty piece of work (especially without redirecting cold traffic as I’ve done before), but I am confident I will achieve it.

I have been focused on increasing the website’s authority, high-quality referrals and growing my social media accounts. I am happy with the progress in May: the domain authority boosted from 24 to 32 and the page authority raised from 37 to 43! As I anticipated, I both went up and I think that until July/August I will experience even further increases. 🙂 Again, I hope that Google recognizes my serious effort here, and boosts my ranks soon!

Although I didn’t have many guest posts published in May, my traffic did grow slightly. In June, should I manage to have 15 guest posts published, I think that I will grow definitely to something around 30k views. I am still waiting to be featured on a major site.

blog views may 2017

and the number of sessions:

sessions views may 2017

For the second consecutive month, more sessions, more users, and more page views!

My Alexa rank is still good, and I am actually over the idea that there will be a big penalty for “losing” the December stats. I also noticed a big increase of my Portuguese audience, which I am glad to see.

alexa rank may 2017

Social Media

This month my Facebook page grew by 203 likes to a total of 804 likes, which compares really well against last month (71 likes), and represents an increase of more than 25%. As I said last month, I had a few tricks I could use to grow my Facebook page and these seem to work beautifully. Next month, I will go all in with this trick and hopefully grow beyond 1000 likes. I won’t hit 25k likes until the end of the year, which was my goal, but I think that I can still reach 5k without ads.

As I said before, I am not keeping track of Pinterest, and I will hire a VA to take care of it for me.

The subscriber count grew from 1029 to 1091, wich means an increase of about 6%. I didn’t grow as much as I expected because although I wrote many guest posts, most of them weren’t published yet. I am still convinced that the goal of reaching 6000 subscribers until the end of the year is achievable because I have a few tricks that I will use, and I still expect to be featured on major sites.

Goals for May 2017:

  • Increase the number of likes on my Facebook page to 700. DONE! I’ve hit 800 likes using a new technique. I am very happy with this.
  • Increase the number of blog subscribers to 1200. FAIL. I managed to hit 1091 subscribers, so I am still far behind my initial goals.
  • Increase the number of followers on Twitter to 350. FAIL. Not really active on Twitter, I am still at 277 followers.
  • Write at least 10 guest posts. ALMOST DONE. This is such a difficult task! I managed to write 8 guest posts but I had to put myself under a lot of stress. Hopefully, this will pay off big time.
  • Reach at least 40k views on my blog. FAIL. Not as many guest posts as I wished and SEO hasn’t kicked in yet. Struggling to increase my view count considerably.
  • Make about $800 online. FAIL. I didn’t consult as much as I expected to, which led to much less money online. However, I used my time very wisely, growing my brick and mortar business considerably.

Goals for June 2017:

  • Increase the number of likes on my Facebook page to 1000.
  • Increase the number of blog subscribers to 1200.
  • Increase the number of followers on Twitter to 350.
  • Write at least 10 guest posts.
  • Reach at least 40k views on my blog.
  • Make about $1000 online.

In the meantime, let me know if this information is useful to you in the comment section down below.

Your biggest fan,
Ben Davis

net worth update
Reports,

May 2017 (247397.66€)

My current worth is €247,397.66 (36.93% of my first goal – €670K).

net worth may 2017

Again, a net worth decrease. Guess what… RP#3 is still sucking up cash!

Why doesn’t RP#3 simply end taking so much money away?

The renovation works are now over, but I had two last bills to pay. One (of €1900) is still carrying over to June, so I expect another net worth decrease next month. However, all units rehabbed in RP#3 are already rented out, so it will take 2-4 months to recover the almost €30k I had to put in to make it appealing for tenants. I’ve run the numbers again, and I am confident that I will have the money I spent remodeling the property completely back in 4 years. This is good, because the property itself cost me more or less the same, thus making it an 8-year deal (although I plan to keep this property forever, as I said last month). Still fine with me, given the entire potential of the property.

I couldn’t rent out the last unit of RP#3 that is good enough to rent. I hope to rent it out during June.

Rental income

This was the last month of my tenants in RP#1, and I will move there this month (unlike what I said last month, I will, in fact, move there because the contract I secured on a rental for myself didn’t go through). As I said, my idea is still to sell it, but I will move there because I think it will take me about 3-6 months to sell it. My idea is still to put €35k to work and throw €10k into P2P lending.

The rental income for May was €1225, which is the highest I’ve achieved in my lifetime, as I said last month. Next month RP#1 won’t be rented, so I’ll collect €1195 in rents. Hopefully, I’ll rent another unit in RP#3 soon and bring the rental income close to €1500.

Online income

My online income for May wasn’t that good, as I invested way less time consulting than in previous months. I will comment on this in the online income report/income diary.

My Real Estate business

My Real Estate business is gaining continuing traction and I am very happy with the direction it is taking. I will report on it next month.

Goals for May

May’s goals were not achieved because I changed my strategy in the first week of the month, but I am happy with the month. Overall, it was a great month!

  1. Make at least $1500 online (aggressive goal).  FAIL (I didn’t consult at all because I started to invest time on different things).
  2. Read two books. FAIL (Yes, I know that I suck when it comes to keeping promises of reading books. Sorry, I simply invest my time in many projects.)
  3. Rent out another unit. FAIL.

Just because I failed every goal, it doesn’t mean that I didn’t like this month. In fact, this was one of the most productive months in 2017!

Next month, my goals are:

  1. Make at least $1000 online and continue to promote the blog aggressively.
  2. Bring down RP#2 last bills to less than €1000.
  3. Read one book.
  4. Rent out another unit.

The environment at work is still great and I like what I am doing. However, it is indeed requiring way more time than I expected at first.

Ben

link building strategies
Blog, SEO,

101 legitimate link building strategies

As you know, I am putting considerable effort into building dofollow links for my blog. However, most link building strategies are risky and can end up destroying the authority of one’s site, and therefore our chances to rank. Thus, after many weeks of intense researching, I decided I had to write a post on legitimate link building strategies because I learned a great deal about this topic.

Before you proceed, be advised that the list below is time-consuming and will not grant you backlinks in a few seconds. I decided to collect strategies that require hard work but deliver the best results because that is what I am interested in. I will progressively update this list with more strategies – each update will have at least 10 ideas (last update: May 31st, 2017).

Without further due, here’s what I came up with…

Legitimate link building strategies

1 – Create (awesome) “101 lists”

…just like this one! I found this to be one of the best way to collect backlinks if you do it right. SEO today is all about user experience. And people want to have insanable actionable content, that fully satisfies their need for information. You want to kill any search that may lead to your site. What you absolutely do not want is people to find your site on Google and return to the same search, because you could not satisfy them.

“101 lists” are awesome because they provide the readers with so much information that it is not likely that they return to the same search. Yes, they do require a lot of work, but I advised in the beginning of the post that these strategies do require work. At the same time, it is easier to reach a high word count this way, which will probably make you look good before search engines.

2 – Create articles with actionable tips to do something

Although “101 lists” can be pretty actionable, articles that are written to be extremely actionable are another great way to earn backlinks. Have a look at posts that are called “[X] you can do right now” and see how much they get shared – this will provide you with an idea for how much they are linked to.

3 – Guest post a lot

My favorite way to build some very valuable, very relevant links.

My suggestion is to guest post on blogs in the same niche. I am in the Early Retirement topic, and I feel that I know the most important blogs in the niche, so I can pitch a guest post directly. If you don’t know them, look around and build a list of your own. I have done this.

If you want to do this faster, you can access platforms like Blogger Link Up and My Blog Guest, where you can find bloggers to pitch guest posts. If you are interested in writing a guest post for me, check out my guidelines before you e-mail me. Note that many bloggers are tired of being pitched guest posts, as this tactic has been pounded, so you must make your pitch stand out. What I appreciate in my own case is that the prospective guest poster knows my blog and what it is all about, and offers a topic based on that.

I always advise aiming blogs that are selective when it comes to accepting guest posts and have some domain and page authority. You can also check the trust flow, but you should keep your expectations realistic.

Some sources have reported that Google will take action on “large scale guest blogging” eventually, so make sure you don’t fall into the bad patterns: write good and unique content, have other outbound links in the article and two to your own site, have at least one internal link and change your bio often. If you plan to use guest posting as one long-term strategy to build backlinks, make good pitches, don’t create predictable patterns, and show that you know which blog you are writing to.

Guidelines

As for the guidelines to write guest posts, I came up with a few, after researching this subject for a looonnnng time:

  • Your bio should change pretty much every time you write a new guest post, and contain 1 or 2 links – to your blog and Twitter handle
  • Minimum of 4 links – to high authority sites. No spammy sites whatsoever. Remember the practices to write your own articles? Same here.
  • Internal links – the guest poster should link to other posts on your blog (or let they know you’ll add them yourself).
  • 1/2 links to your own blog – in the middle of the text, as natural as it can be.
  • No spelling or grammar errors – otherwise it tells you that the author didn’t spend much time on the post.
  • Must fit your blog theme entirely. Pretty much self-explanatory and obvious, yet people keep making this mistake.
  • You must like the article. I’ve used a lot of sweat and tears to build From Cents To Retirement. I am not publishing something I won’t believe in.
  • Include images – not a must, but I personally like this (both when I guest post or host posts). Make sure you own the rights.

This quarter, I’ve set the goal to write 50 guest posts. I will also write a comprehensive article on the results of this.

There are various recipes out there to find places to guest post, including this one suggested by Neil Patel. I personally suggest contacting the bloggers in your niche you know offhand, provided that their DA is above your own. I do agree with Neil Patel on some other aspects, including good practices on guest posting.

4 – Create extensive resource lists

Did you have a look at my books list? With such an extensive list of books, I am sure that there are not many awesome books on personal finance that are not covered there. This makes this page highly susceptible to be linked to. Bloggers looking to provide their users with the best information will likely link to these extensive resource lists because they want to link to as much information as possible.

People tend to prefer a source that contains everything that there is to know about that topic, other than a group of them. Also, just like I am doing with this post, keep it to date and refine it as time goes by. If a few things become deprecated, this will lower your chances to be linked to.

5 – Create a list of the top 10 myths of a specific topic within your niche

There are a lot of myths and misconceptions in virtually every industry out there. Chances are there are some in your own. Make sure everyone knows about it. This type of posts tends to get very viral, especially if you promote them correctly.

6 – Create lists of the experts in your fields

Create your own directory about the blogs in your niche. For instance, on personal finance and early retirement, J Money put together this ultra extensive list, with almost 1000 blogs. Not sure how many links it has, but I am sure it has been linked a lot!

If you create your own, make sure you list your own site. From what I’ve been able to see, the longer the list, the higher the chances to be linked!

7 – Spend some time on the story of your site

A site with an identity is something that people tend to trust in. And trust is absolutely needed if you want people to link to your site. Have a look at the biggest blogs out there and how they have their story so clear and so upfront.

8 – Publish reports on your site

I post reports on my online income. Some reports were shared and linked to. However, the majority of links I’ve obtained came from extensive lists (remember tip #4) of online reports.

It doesn’t have to be about money… just report something that can easily grip some attention and be linked to from large resource lists.

9 – Do roundups

Have you read the roundup I’ve made with top bloggers in the Early Retirement niche? This has granted me a few backlinks (and a lot of traffic), as many other bloggers linked to it. It is just a monumental piece of information. I brought the best of the best to talk about a topic that is the essence of my blog. Other bloggers interested in Early Retirement may obviously link to this article, as it provides a lot of information!

Do the same. Go out there and invite the top bloggers in your niche for a roundup. It takes a lot of work, but it can be highly beneficial! Here’s a simple recipe that I’ve used successfully:

  • Think about a topic – something that connects well to your blog (and not necessarily the core topic of your blog).
  • Write the questions – ideally something that your readers asked before and you’re sure they are interested in.
  • Pick the most qualified bloggers to answer those questions – not necessary the top bloggers in the niche though.
  • Convince them to join – from my experience, everyone is really open to joining unless they are swamped with work.
  • Grab the answers and publish them – this may a huge post, so this will also account for some work!
  • Promote the post and ask the participants to promote it to – hopefully, it will be viral!

10 – Create infographics and reach out influencers

Another tough task, but a very profitable one! Infographics are among the most shareable and linkable posts out there. They are also well seen by search engines with the latest algorithms, thus providing some additional exposure.

investment hunting interview
Interviews,

Interview #6 – Be Smart Rich from Be Smart Rich.com

This is the sixth interview of my interview series, where I interview bloggers blogging about Early Retirement, Personal Finance, and related topics. I have published my first book recently, and I am writing my second book, which will be on what I learned interviewing millionaires. As you can see, I love interviewing people.

This time, I bring you my fellow Canadian Be Smart Rich from Be Smart Rich.com. I hope you enjoy it.

Q1 – Who is Be Smart Rich?

Hi everyone, I run a personal finance blog BeSmartRich. I was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Canada alone about 10 years ago with my life savings when I was in the early 20’s. I was a high school graduate, had zero English skills and just got out of South Korean military.

be smart rich military

(I used to live in that APC (Armored Personal Carrier) for 2 years)

Similar to other immigrants, I worked anywhere as long as it paid me something. I made less than minimum wage ($7/hour) for a while but I was glad to save up money to get a proper education. I have been always good with numbers so I decided to major in accounting and studied my ass off just to survive through university. Luckily, I got a job offer from an accounting firm that changed my life. I earned CPA in 2013. This is my 7th year of my career in Canada.wife be smart rich

Toronto, Canada but I am originally from South Korea. I traveled to Vancouver first when I was 23 and I loved it so I decided to stay in Canada. I moved to Halifax (my second hometown) to do my university then came to Toronto when I was around 30. I got my Canadian citizen 1.5 years ago. Big changes so far and I am still loving it.

 

I am married to a beautiful wife that I met here in Canada about 3 years ago and have a monstrous greyhound that eats like a horse.

For more, check out About Me.

[Ben: your picture is definitely one of the best pictures I’ve had in my interview series. Awesome! And you’re a lucky dude, you’ve got a gorgeous wife! I also love the fact that you came all the way from Korea and you worked hard and became Canadian. Props to you.]

Q2 – What do you do for a living and what do you like the most about it?

I am an accountant. Currently working as Controller of a fintech startup company. The company has many challenges but is growing at 200-300% every year. Until the company becomes one of the major companies in Canada, I won’t stop. 🙂   The work is stressful but at the same time quite exciting and enjoyable. Never a dull moment and that’s how I like it.

[Ben: pretty impressive you emigrated to Canada with no English Skills and you’re working for a company that has the potential to become of the major companies in the country…]

Q3 – Why did you start your blog and what is your main goal with it?

I just wanted to I want to encourage hard working people to study, work smartly, save, being frugal and invest wisely for better future. Think about it. I was poor, had no family member living nearby, my language skills were terrible and was a high school graduate making less than minimum wage. I worked very hard with smart plans and I am quite different now as compared to who I was 10 years ago. I am nobody compared to all the successful people who sold their companies for billions but I want to share all the tips that I know with people regarding how a regular person just like me has a dream to be a millionaire and getting closer every day and people can do it as well.

Blogging is only one of few ways to reflect my thoughts. I love sharing aspect as well. I am happy to inspire people and educate them how to invest and get them focused in building their nest eggs. All they need was to be exposed to great blogs so that they can follow suit if makes senses.

I want to help anyone who reads and enjoys my blog to be more responsible for their own financial destiny. It really starts from looking in the mirror and tracking your family’s net worth and realizing where they are at and where they will be. Setting up goals and reach one goal at a time.

[Ben: we see things pretty much similarly. I wish you the best success blogging. I love your story and your blog.]

Q4 – What was the main reason for you to think about early retirement?

I have been through a bit with my life and I realized whenever I go through a rough time, only thing (other than my family and close friends) that saved me to get through was money in the bank. I learned importance of saving very early and started working ever since I was 11 years old. I used to be a newspaper delivery man, gas station assistant, convenient store cashier, dish washer, bakery assistant, flyer handout man, buffet and various restaurants server, computer store assistant etc… I saved every single penny from the work and all the saving from the jobs was used in university education in Canada. It was very worth it.

I did not really think about financial independence until I ran into some personal finance blogs. The blogs changed the way I think about money. I opened my direct investing account in September 2014 rather than putting money in mutual funds immediately after the encounter of the blogs and started tracking my net worth. It has been longer than 2.5 years and things are going pretty well.

numbers be smart rich

Thanks to the inspiring personal financial bloggers, my average annual return is at 9% and total return since September 2014 is 25.69%. TSX (Toronto Stock Exchange) stayed flat during the same period.

About a year ago I reached $200,000 from $2,000.

numbers be smart rich

[Ben: I am not sure what I like the most: your hustle and your saving mentality or your progress and gains from your investments. I am a very goal-driven dude myself.]

Q5 – At what age are you most likely to retire from your day job?

My conservative prediction is before 45. That is 10 years from now. Considering my salary growth, my wife’s financial help from her job starting in about 1 year and improving investing skills, I may be able to reach the financial freedom even before 42-43. I will retire when my expenses are covered by non-work related passive incomes.

[Ben: I checked your portfolio and I actually think you could do it before you’re 40, if you took advantage of geographic arbitrage.]

Q6 – What do you plan on doing after retirement?

We love travelling and we will travel around the world for about a year. After that we will travel at least 4-6 countries per year until we mark all countries in the world in the world map.  There are so many better things to do than working 9-6 everyday for the rest of our lives. My family will travel at least once a month or two. I will probably join a band playing the guitar and focus on enjoying the life to the fullest. I always wanted to have lots of kids because my wife and I do not have any family in Canada so as long as my boss (I mean my wife) is ok, then we will try our best.

[Ben: If you stop by Portugal, please do let me know! I am happy to know that your wife is running things at home. ;-)]

Q7 – What investments do you like the best, and why?

I like buying stocks among all investments. Several reasons. Firstly, I can do all fundamental analyses myself due to my accounting background. Second of all, I always loved the concept of owning great companies. Lastly, I believe that the world has been and will be moving forward not backward due to nature of humans’ desire for wanting better things. Companies are at front to take advantages of technological advancements.

I like investing in super high quality companies. I used to mimic Ben Graham’s value investing so I had been buying so-called severely undervalued companies that are going through troubles with chance of survival and turnaround. However, I realized more and more through experience and readings (thanks to Charlie Munger and Phillip Fisher) that quality matters the most.

I do not mind owning a house but the Toronto housing markets are quite crazy now so I will wait until correction comes and things settle.

Q8. If you could only use one metric to evaluate a stock, which one would you choose?

Dupont analysis. I wrote an article about how Warren Buffett analyze stocks.

Buffett also loves Dupont analysis. My second favorite is free cash flow analysis. No matter under any circumstance, cash flow is the king.

[Ben: Interesting. I wonder what you think of the metrics I use.]

Q9 – How about eleven places you love that you’ve visited or have lived in?

I have been to most of major cities and travel destinations in Canada – Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Halifax, St John’s Cabot Trail, Rocky Mountain, Niagara Falls etc… and been to some American cities such as Seattle, New York, Boston etc… I used to be an auditor working with an accounting firm so anytime I had to be on business trip, I took extra days off to sightseeing. It was great.

My favorite was Cabot Trail, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia – Driving beautifully paved shoreline for an hour was unbelievably fun. Not to mention so many beautiful beaches around the shore. I went there with my girlfriend (my wife now) and our best friends couple.

picture be smart rich

Q10 – If you could go back in time, what investment advice would you give to your past self?

Start early. I mean really early. I would have been a millionaire by now if I started when I was 18. That’s quite alright though because it is never too late to start.

[Ben: So agreed!]

Q11 – What did you like the most about my blog, From Cents to Retirement? Do you have any advice for me?

I love the online income updates. It is really honest and detailed. Hard to find any other bloggers showing honest advices that work. Great job!

[Ben: Thanks buddy!]

save to retire early
Daily life,

Living frugally – the 1st pillar of early retirement

Living frugally is probably the number one thing to look at for those who want to retire early. We already know the formula: earn well, live frugally (aka save as much as you can) and invest wisely. Write down a plan and follow it no matter what. But what about the details of frugal living? How to get through them, become financially independent and still live happily?

Living frugally – the 1st pillar of early retirement

While some things are difficult to envision, try to look out for examples. This family of 4 lives on $14k a year. This family lived a year on extreme frugality. If they can do it, you can do it too!

In this post, I’ll tell you that living frugally actually means and how I do it.

What exactly do I save on?

If you stop to think about them, our culture is geared towards spending money. We are constantly bombarded with ads that prompt us to buy. We end up buying a lot of things by impulse, not because we really want them or need them.

I’ve decided to do it differently. I spend money on what I need the most, or what leaves me truly happy. You have to ask yourself the same question: what does leave you truly happy: a new car, a new smartphone, new clothes very season or being able to retire early? I am not saying that the latter is the right choice, I am simply saying that it is what I want. In the following, let me share some tips:

Home and car

As I wrote last week, I am moving to a very small condo in one of my multi-unit properties. I think I haven’t shown my car yet, so here is it:

 

Although a beautiful, reliable VW from 1999, it only cost me €3000. My family was quite surprised when I bought “such an old car” for “someone with a PhD and a large salary”. Guess what, I could not regret it less. I absolutely love my car. 🙂

This car serves me extremely well. First, it is a classic over here. Second, it is super reliable. Third, it has a huge trunk and can take up to 5 people. No other car would make out my happiness, really. Well, to be fully honest, a brand new Mercedes A45 would probably make me a little bit happier, but it would cost me €27000 more. €27000 is what I need to live comfortably for 2,5 years, so choosing between these cars having in mind that the Passat will allow me to retire at least 2,5 years before is a no brainer, even from the happiness point of view.

Food

Pretty simple – I never ever throw away food. I plan every meal accordingly and I buy food for them – not more, and rarely less.

Coupons

I’ve been less of a coupon freak. Back in the day, I use to literally go through every coupon magazine and collect tons of coupons, filter them out, and spend them or change them for money. I was a coupon machine. Today, my time is way more valuable than that. If you have spare time and you get bored easily, do search for coupons, they can save you a lot of money.

Today, I still chase coupons and try to take advantage of sales, but I am not a coupon freak anymore. I think that the time I would invest into finding coupons is way better invested in my online and Real Estate businesses and this blog. Plus, having a growing blog does leave me happier than saving a few bucks at the supermarket.

Family

Pretty difficult to deal with, I gotta be honest. My family does not understand why I want to be so frugal. If you hold a PhD and your family think you have a large salary, they won’t understand why you don’t want to go out for lunch or take advantage of Black Fridays. My family knows that I have CFS but they don’t really know I want to retire in my 30s. Plus, they don’t have a very frugal background, so frugality is not something they are really used to.

Gifts

This is the hardest part of saving. I use to give my relatives and friends pretty generous gifts, and ever since I started to work on my early retirement, I changed that. It is not exactly like I give them crappy presents now, but I try to go for something cheap that either they really need or looks expensive. For women, I tend to give flowers more often.

Let me know about you – how do you save and what tricks do you use?

how much square feet space you need
Daily life, Lifestyle,

How much square footage do I need to have a good life

The first question that everyone who wants to retire early should make. It is also one of the first questions that I analyze with my clients… How much square footage (or square meters, if you’re European) do you really need?

I’ll try to answer it from a not so explored angle…

How much square footage do I need to live the good life

Most people fantasize about a huge home (and a nice car). This is in fact what trapps them into a mortgage that they need to work their entire lifes to pay off.

However, if you are asking yourself how much square footage you need, you’ve probably arrived at the conclusion that a small home is a smart decision…

So, this month I moved to my new home. My net worth is about a quarter of a million dollars, but as always, I like to look at spending money based on the amount of happiness it brings me. If having lunch out will boost my happiness on that particular day, you bet I am going to go grab that 10 buck lunch!

This follows my philosophy that you should spend your money based on the amount of happiness it will bring you. ALWAYS make that question before spending any money. “Do I really want to drink an espresso right now, or is this rather an impulse buy?” “Does having lunch out today will make me happier and more productive?” “What will make me happier? A big home and a big mortgage or financial comfort and a passive check in my mailbox?”

Think about life as a game, where characters have those fancy “happiness bars” on top of their heads. Something like this:

happiness bars how much squared footage do I need

OK, these are what I am talking about. Imagine those next to you. You’re in the game now – you’re the main character and you’re trying to maximize your happiness. If you look to the other side, you’ll see a number, that is your money. Now go out there and try to get the best case scenario: spending as less money as possible, you want to maximize your happiness bar. Note that in this game you don’t have to impress people you don’t like. Stop now. Ask yourself. What is my perfect home now?

Chances are you’ll say you don’t need a big home because there is a sqft where your happiness levels actually start to decrease. Instead, you’ll trade a few square feet for a few (a few != many) other things, including a nice chesterfield where you can relax and a fast internet connection to read From Cents To Retirement or any other nice site out there (although you know that this is the best). You’ll probably buy plants or something that connects you to nature because we are naturally connected to nature. Or maybe you’re a city guy and nature doesn’t turn you on. Maybe an espresso machine and a shelf of books (this is sooo Ben Davis).

The bottom line is that if you ask these questions to yourself, you’ll find a reasonable limit where more sqft don’t translate into more happiness. Fortunately, downsizing has been considered more and more a weapon to early retirement. For instance, this family sold their house for £130,000 and bought a £24,000 boat, where they live permanently in. And I bet they are happier!

Have a look at the property I chose to live in (which is actually one of the units of my 6-plex), since the beginning of the month:

kitchen How much square footage do I need

room How much square footage do I need

living room How much square footage do I need

This unit is about 500 ft². Yes, that’s it. It has a small kitchen, a room, a living room and a small bathroom. I will live alone, so that is more than enough for me.

Would my happiness bar increase a lot if I moved to a much bigger home? Probably not. Would yours?

tips for real estate investors
Real Estate,

The best real estate investing tips for beginners – my experience

10 real estate investing tips for beginners

1 – Market research

May sound obvious but this is the number one mistake I’ve seen from real estate investors. Many people buy properties because they look like a bargain to them. Yes, but what if it doesn’t rent out? The very first thing that I recommend my investors to do is to make sure they are considering properties with a high likelihood of being rented out.

2 – Conduct a property inspection before buying the property

Mistake number two. I’ve seen so many investors buying properties without inspections because “they looked OK” and suffered from that. First, chances are that the repairs may end up costing A LOT more than you imagined. In some cases, they can cost more than the actual property (especially if there is something wrong with the foundation). Second, you can actually get real numbers to put a proforma together and decide whether the deal makes sense.

Do not get caught off guard!

3 – Track your expenses from day one

Mistake number three. I just published an article on tracking your expenses. So many investors fail at keeping track of their expenses because “they pay for them with their checking accounts”. I do that myself, but it doesn’t mean that we should not track those expenses. The main reason to track expenses has to do with knowing your numbers. If you don’t know whether you’re making money on your property, how should you expect to scale your business?

4 – Know a lot of contractors

A fundamental part of a good REI business. Knowing multiple contractors means that your flips won’t ever stop, you’ll always have somebody to inspect a home you gotta close fast, and so on.

I typically ask for a few quotes on each renovation I do. This allows me to have the best of the best deals. It also happens that one specific contractor may charge you more on a specific location (because they are located far from that location). Always keep a bunch of contractors in your contact list!

5 – Grow free platforms to advertise your homes

This is an awesome idea because Real Estate companies charge a lot to rent out your homes. I like to grow my own platforms to advertise my homes and cut down on fees.

I personally like Facebook a lot. Create a page, and invite your friends to like it and invite their friends to like it too. Run a few contests and ads, if need be. My Facebook pages for my Real Estate properties have a total of 5000 likes. It has been a successful way to generate leads and get prospective tenants to visit and rent out my properties.

Facebook is yet another way to do it. You can use Craigslist (be aware that there are many Craigslist rental scams, so don’t take it personally if people don’t trust your ad right away) or even grow your own e-mail list. The latter has been very effective for a very good friend of mine, but I haven’t tapped into that yet.

6 – Create a limited liability company to hold your rental properties

This one you should discuss with a lawyer and this is by no means legal advice. For risk management reasons you should consider setting up a limited liability company to hold your real estate investments.

There are a gazillion reasons why you could be sued. If you protect your personal assets (creating an LLC to hold your rental properties). If you are sued, you’ll at most lose your investment, but your other assets stay out of reach.

7 – Get to know a lot of real estate agents

This is really how the best deals are done. If you know and become friends with many real estate agents, you should expect to be offered a lot of deals before they reach the public (if you show them you are a recurrent, serious buyer).

8 – Understand intelligent remodeling

I’ve written before on intelligent remodeling, i.e. ways that you have to maximize your remodeling value, but keep your costs low. I am fortunate I got to stay at marvelous hotels throughout the world, due to traveling a lot in work. This allowed me to see many renovations and get a lot of ideas from these places, which I use to this day.

9 – Get ideas from magazines

Not long ago, I was featured on Home and Beauty, and I decided to explore their page. Boy, I got so many ideas from that! If you understand that intelligent remodeling is the key to maximize value and minimize cost, you’ll immediately understand why this is so important.

10 – Create value, but don’t sell yourself short

The philosophy I use to run my Real Estate business is to create a lot of value. I want people to come to my homes and be astonished by the remodeling I do and the rents I ask for. I try to create as much value as I can (that is my philosophy in business, really). However, there is a limit where you start selling yourself short. Do not do that! Charge reasonably, slightly below-market rents for high-quality homes, but don’t decrease rent just to get a tenant!