Author

investment hunting interview
Interviews,

Interview #5 – Nathan from Investment Hunting

This is the fifth 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 Nathan from Investment Hunting.com. I hope you enjoy it.

Q1 – Who is Nathan?

Who is Nathan. How much time do you have. Perhaps I should just have my therapist send you her condensed version of my story ;-). Seriously though, Nathan, better know as Investment Hunting lives in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area. Nathan is married, my 20-year anniversary is in two weeks. Nathan is the proud father of two children. My daughter is 19, a junior in college. My son is 15, a sophomore in high school.

My investment style is pretty simple, I’m currently a dividend stock investor and an options trader. I’ve recently started dabbling with P2P lending and real estate. But the bulk of my investments are in dividend paying stocks. My history is not typical. In 2008, I lost everything and started over. This of course sucked, but it made my family much stronger.

I bounced back and started investing again in 2013. I’ve been able to get my net worth above $400,000 in three years buy saving and investing. I’m putting away more than $50k each year in an attempt to retire comfortably before I’m 65. It will be close, but with a little luck, I’ll be able to retire and enjoy my golden years.

[I think its super inspirational that you lost everything in 2008 and you had to start over. I can see that you have a diversified portfolio, and you know more about Ponzi schemes now, so I am sure that you have been growing stronger and wiser. And great job on those $400k.]

Q2 – Why and when did you start Investment Hunting?

I was inspired to start a blog after reading blogs like Dividend Mantra, DivHut, and Dividend Diplomats. I figured, why not me, I can do this. I started blogging in December 2014 under the name Dividend Dreams. Long story short, I was forced to close this blog because a company owned the name. I launched Investment Hunting in August 0f 2015 and my second blog Options Hunting in September of 2016.

My primary goal is to document what I do, step-by-step for my children and grandchildren. Hopefully they’ll get inspired and start their own journeys towards financial independence. Afterall, if they start investing at 18, the road to retirement has far less bumps in it.

[Never heard of a shutdown because a company owned the name. I am sorry to hear that. Indeed, I can see why you do that and I agree that it will be very inspirational for them.]

Q3 – What is Investment Hunting all about?

Investment Hunting is focused on my journey to financial independence. I track every stock I buy and sell and I list my reasons for each transaction. The site isn’t and advice blog or an affiliate blog. I do have ads on my site to offset hosting costs, but I’m not in this to become a professional blogger. I want to tell my story, not to sell hosting plans or affiliate programs to my readers.

My hope is that readers find new ideas or that they get value out of my stock analysis. Lastly, Investment Hunting is about me. It’s a selfish pleasure. I get to share what I’m doing with the world and get feedback and advice from others.

[and nobody can blame you for that!]

Q4 – What are your favourite blogs?

I visit hundreds of blogs every week. I have too many favorites to list here. My top three blogs are:

Dividend Diplomats

DivHut

DivGro

Q5 – What is your end goal regarding money?

To become a billionaire; we’ll at least a millionaire. My goal is to have enough money to live comfortably and to be able to travel. I don’t need fancy cars or an expensive home.

[I too like to set the bar high and fail then setting it low and succeed. Best of luck!]

Q6 – What do you think you’re good at, when it comes to money?

I’m a good saver. My wife and I both save our money. This saving habit has allowed us to get back on our feet and to rebuild our net worth in a short amount of time. If we can maintain this we’ll retire early. She’s recently gone back to work after a 8-year stay-at-home hiatus. This new income will allow us to double-down on 401ks and invest more money.

[Awesome. Maybe the retirement date will be <65 this way?]

Q7 – What are your goals for your blog and your personal life, for 2017?

I set my 2017 goals back in December 2016. The goals are a mix of personal and investing goals. I’m focused on heavy investing, $50k into the market and $10k into P2P lending. I’m also hoping to $7,500 in dividend income and $7,500 in options income. This income gets reinvested, so if I hit these goals, I’ll add $75,000 in fresh capital this year.

One constant about life is that it always throws wrenches into well thought out plans. My goals this year have changed. I just bought a house, this was unplanned. The house came with a bunch of equity ($400,00), so I couldn’t pass on it. This acquisition will force me to reduce my stock market investments. This transaction was a true win-win opportunity. It’s sort of a reverse mortgage. I’ll write a detailed post about this purchase sometime next month.

My goal for my blog is to start posting regularly. The regularity of my posts has fallen over a cliff the past 3-months. Work has gotten crazy, and honestly, I’ve lost some of my inspiration to blog. I’m working on getting this back and returning to multiple posts per week. Taking part in interviews like this one helps me to recharge my batteries. Thanks for interviewing me.

[As a goal driven guy – see my goals for 2017 here -, I love to read this type of stuff. It seems that you’ll throw a lot of money into growing your investments. Please do let us know about the property you bought and what you gained! I’d like to see more posts from you, so good luck with that. Thank you for being here.]

chronic fatigue syndrome diet fibromyalgia diet
Health, Lifestyle,

A new lifestyle to address my chronic fatigue syndrome: a comprehensive guide

This is a long post on a topic that is particularly important for me: the chronic fatigue syndrome/fibromyalgia. I am not a physician, and this post is by no means med­ical advice. If you have any health condition, I strongly suggest you talk to your doctor. Please read the disclaimer at the end of this post.

I have presented the diet I will use from May 1st, to address my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. However, this post presents a much more holistic set of tools and lifestyle, which I recently tested and adopted, and takes this subject to a whole new level. This includes a complete description of the diet as well as techniques to reduce muscle fatigue and pain. Keep in mind that what works for some doesn’t necessarily work for all. One thing I learned with CFS is that we have to get to know what works with us. I felt that I needed to aggregate all that information in one article and I sincerely hopefully that this helps someone.

Symptoms

The symptoms I will try to counteract with the lifestyle I present in this post are:

  • Fatigue: this is something that I’ve had for the past 4 years. It does not prevent me from working at the computer, but it surely prevents me from exercising sometimes and increases the chances of low mood. I also wake up tired, which really sucks.
  • Exhaustion: this is a terrible symptom (essentially a very intense fatigue) which prevents me from doing anything. Fortunately, it happened very seldom in the last 2 years. Typically lasts from 1/2 days to 1 week.
  • Neck pain and stiffness: this is an acute, strong pain in the neck, which is really painful and annoying but does not prevent me from much. I’d rather have this one for the rest of my life and not have anything else. When I wake up my neck is very tense and if I move my head my neck cracks all over, and hurts. I feel that this is moderately connected to the fatigue.
  • Dizziness/vertigo: this is by far my worse symptom, but I am lucky that I only have on-and-off crises. Most crises last for 2 weeks, but I’ve been experiencing intense, extremely debilitating dizziness for more than 3 months now (although I had no crises for the previous 18 months). Sometimes dizziness comes with motion sickness, which is really debilitating. Very seldom, I experience nausea as well. I feel that my dizziness is connected to stress and anxiety, which worsen my neck pain and stiffness, which in turn increase the probability of experiencing dizziness.
  • Depression / low mood: In my case, this is not due to CFS – it is because some symptoms are really debilitating and I can’t do much. Plus, I never know when they ago away, and I feel that they will never go away. It is exactly that that kills me. I get anxious when symptoms don’t go away, which probably makes them worse.
  • Feeling toxic: Hard to explain, but I feel that my body is very toxic on the inside.
  • Loss of interest and enjoyment: Having no energy or not feeling well can be truly devastating. The only things that still turn me on are huge projects, like turning From Cents To Retirement into a reference blog in the context of Early Retirement.

Diet – a Paleo diet variant as a fibromyalgia diet and a chronic fatigue syndrome diet

I have previously explained the Paleo diet variant that I have followed in the past, which greatly helped me with many of my symptoms. This section is a much more extensive version of that post.

Some sources report that diet can play an important role in improving my CFS. This section goes over the diet that worked the best for me, up until today.

The Paleo Diet as a diet to beat CFS

My understanding of the Paleo Diet is that you remove all processed foods, refined vegetable oils, cereal grains, dairy, and legumes. In contrast, you can eat grass-fed meat, fish and seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, nuts and seeds and healthy oils, such as olive oil. You can check out the entire lists here, the Paleo Diet website. I personally use legumes and cereal grains very occasionally, but stick to the paleo diet for the most part.

Chronic Fatigue / Fibromyalgia and The Paleo Diet

I personally use a variation of the Paleo Diet, simply because I was so used to cereals that I could never get really used to the Paleo Diet. I actually saw this diet for the first time on a fibromyalgia diet book. In particular, the variations include:

  • Rice (although Quinoa was preferred);
  • Low GI fruit at the beginning of every meal;
  • Green, fresh salads at every meal;
  • All meat cooked at very low temperature – rare or at most medium rare;
  • Very little white meat – at least 90% beef;
  • Plenty of Sauerkraut;
  • Water as the only drink (at least half a gallon), except for 1 espresso (at most one) a day and homemade teas.

This can be a diet that is close to a ketogenic diet because most carbs are removed. Here are some pics of a regular day on this diet:

breakfast rare eggs

Breakfast: eggs (only slightly cooked)

lunch rare meat

Lunch: rice, steak cooked rare and lots of fresh salad.

steak rare

Steak: when I say rare, it is rare.

Afternoon snack fresh salad smoked salmon

Afternoon snack: fresh salad, and smoked salmon.

salmon sweet potato brocolli

Dinner: salmon, sweet potatoes and veggies.

Specific foods

The first specific food that plays a crucial role in my diet is sauerkraut. If you don’t know the benefits of sauerkraut, they include 1) the ability to increase your digestive health, stimulate the immune system, and eliminate inflammation, to name a few. It also provides good amounts of iron, which is essential for energy production. As a fermented food, sauerkraut comes with tons of good bacteria, similar to those found in yogurt and kefir. I found from personal experience that sauerkraut enhances my digestive system considerably and reduces the abdominal pain that I occasionally experienced.

Sugar is completely prohibited in the diet I follow. I don’t like sugary foods, so for me, it is not a big problem. The only thing that I love which contains some sugar is dark (high cacao) chocolate. Sadly, I can only eat a very small piece at night, after dinner. That is it.

Coffee is another thing that I must consume with a lot of moderation. Sadly, as a good Portuguese and Italian, I LOVE espresso, and it certainly is one of my biggest pleasures throughout the day. With this diet, I am reduced to one espresso a day (which I usually drink at breakfast or after lunch).

Dairy is completely removed from the diet. I don’t drink milk for about 4 years now, but I occasionally do eat one yogurt or another. With this diet, I will be removing every food that contains milk. I will replace this with almond or rice milk.

Supplements

This section goes over the various supplements I have successfully tried before and I will be integrating into my diet from May 1st on. The supplements include:

  • Breakfast: L-Tyrozine+Krill Oil+Vitamin D, Digestive Enzymes and Ginseng (I take this one: Ginseng from Now Foods).
  • Lunch: 5-HTP Plus, Digestive Enzymes, and Ginseng.
  • Dinner: 5-HTP Plus, Magnesium, Passiflora, and Ginseng.

I have also done cycles of the following supplements:

  • Antifungal supplements (at breakfast and dinner)
  • Probiotics (at breakfast – after the antifungal cycle)
  • Ginger and Ginkgo Biloba.
  • liver supporting supplement.

Home remedies

Although not exactly a remedy, one thing that has been particularly effective for me, in fighting dizziness/vertigo, are heating pads. I typically apply these on my neck (both on the back of the neck and on the sides). I started to use heating pads because of muscle stiffness in my neck, but it has helped dramatically with dizziness. Whether there is a direct connection between my stiff neck and being dizzy I don’t know (although it could make sense).

Another great tool against dizziness is ginger and mint tea. I usually use a greater to prepare the ginger tea (it has to be really strong to be effective) and I usually drop a few organic mint leaves there. This list of home remedies against dizziness also recommends 1) deep breathing, 2) lemon and 3) Indian Gooseberry, among others. I will try to incorporate these and see whether they work for me.

Pressure Points (Acupressure)

Acupressure (see a definition on Wikipedia) is an alternative medicine technique with the same principles of acupuncture. The underlying idea is that energy flows through “meridians” in the body and it can be affected by specific points in the body. In particular, acupuncture points clearing blockages in these meridians. The pressure can be applied by hand, with your elbow or some specific devices.

My favorite thing about acupressure is that not only it doesn’t cost any money (because you can do it yourself), as it also produces results right away.

I do acupressure on a daily basis, between 1 and 3 times a day. I usually do the following routine: TE3, LI4, P6 (inner gate) and EX (third eye) – each of which for 5 seconds. On top of that, I press and massage the GB20 after my neck massage, every day before doing to bed. If you are not familiar with the points I mentioned, I recommend watching this youtube video by “The Chen Dynasty”:

and this amazing list of pressure points useful for dizziness and vertigo (as I said before, I use P6 and G20 and TW17 a lot).

Sleep

I typically have no problems falling asleep. For many CFS sufferers, this is not the case. However, even though I get asleep pretty fast, the problem for me is that my sleep is often not refreshing. I remember the good old days when I felt tired, went to sleep and woke up magically refreshed again. It is not like that anymore. I often wake up exhausted and feel that my body slept but didn’t rest.

What works for me

I have found that what works for me is 1) to sleep about 7h30m-8h, 2) go to bed between 11 pm and 11.30 pm and 3) stick to the same sleeping schedule. If bedtime changes a lot, I run into a problem. The same way, if I go to bed after midnight, I feel my body doesn’t seem to rest as much.

On top of that, I think that meditating 5 minutes every day before going to sleep and applying acupressure works well. I also found out that massaging my neck is absolutely crucial for dizziness, so I will to that for 10 minutes before and after mediation. The best massages for me are lying down on my bed, with my head on a thick pillow and use my hands to massage my neck. As my head is on the pillow, there is space between my neck and the mattress, where I put my hands to massage the neck.

A good alternative is to sit on my bed, with my back straight, and apply this message:

At the end of it, I also apply acupressure as I massage the LV3 point. I prefer to apply a massage every day, for 5 minutes, than one every week for 2 hours.

Important disclaimer: The statements in this post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This blog and this post are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Consult your physician before beginning any exercise or diet program.

 

investment hunting interview
Interviews,

Interview #4 – ESI from ESI Money

This is the fourth interview of my interview series, where I interview bloggers blogging about Early Retirement, Personal Finances, 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 ESI from ESI Money. I hope you enjoy it.

Who is ESI?

I’m an early 50’s guy who’s been married 25 years and has two kids (son, 20; daughter 18). We live in Colorado (and LOVE it!).

I enjoy exercising, hiking, soccer, chess, and money — not necessarily in that order. 🙂

I reached financial independence a few years ago, retired nine months ago, and now share the steps I took to develop a multi-million dollar net worth.

[So many people living in and loving Colorado.

You’re one of the first people I interviewed who has already achieved financial independence, this will be fun!] 

 

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

My 28-year career was spent as a business executive, initially in marketing and then in general management later in my career.

After college I got an MBA, then worked for a combination of Fortune 500 companies as well as smaller businesses.

Eventually I became the president of a $100 million company with 800 employees.

I enjoyed the challenges of business the most. There are always obstacles with multiple ways to potentially solve them. Selecting one and then working on it to meet company objectives was a blast.

[It sounds like you had an awesome career and I bet it helped you reach financial independence much faster!] 

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

My site, ESI Money, is a blog about achieving financial independence through earning, saving, and investing (ESI). There’s a bit more to personal finance, of course, but if a person concentrates on these three areas, they will do quite well financially. As such I focus on the few topics that will get readers the most results.

What makes the blog different is that it’s written by someone who is wealthy taking about what he’s done to amass a sizable net worth. I combine this knowledge with concise, practical, and proven tips. If I can do it, anyone can. But they can do it better as they can avoid the mistakes I made along the way.

For those who are interested, I’ve written a free ebook on how to reach financial independence that gives the highlights.

[Indeed, that makes a huge difference. I didn’t know you had this ebook, I am certainly going to read it!!!]

Any big plans for your blog for the near future?

My goals are all long-term. I just started blogging seriously a few months ago (when I retired). Over the next two to three years I just want to write good content and have it impact people’s lives.

Eventually I’d like to get to the point where the blog delivers $10k-$20k per year in profit. Doing this will allow me to diversify my retirement income which is currently heavily weighted on real estate.

[I will follow you as much as possible, because I know it will be awesome. And I second you on creating another source of income and diversifying your income streams!!!]

What do you do now that you’re retired?

I provide regular retirement updates to my readers (here’s my six month update) to keep them in the loop, but here are the highlights so far:

  • I run ESI Money. As you know, a blog takes a lot of time and effort and I probably spend four hours a day on some aspect of it.
  • Exercise. I do cardio three times a week and weights three times a week. In addition I walk at least 10,000 steps a day (I’m training to hike up Pikes Peak). I’m in the best shape/health of my life.
  • Spend time with family. My kids are still both at home so we regularly go out to eat, catch a movie (Tuesdays are reduced prices and no one is ever there, so that’s when we go), and explore nature (lots of hiking trails around here). I walk a couple times a day with my wife for 30 to 60 minutes each time.
  • Volunteer. I’m on the board of a local non-profit that helps the homeless.
  • Read. I read a ton — blogs, magazines, and books. Now that I have the time I can read for enjoyment as much as education.
  • Travel. It’s been mostly driving trips so far, but we’re headed to Seattle, Portland, D.C., and Dallas later this year. Next year we’re looking at spending the entire month of January in the Caribbean (see below for how many islands there we love).
  • Taking life slow. My stress levels are at all-time lows and I enjoy letting each day simply happen. It now annoys me a bit when I actually have a meeting or appointment scheduled. 🙂

[Love how close you are with your audience – I do the same. Indeed, blogging takes up A LOT of time, if you want to take it seriously. Sounds like you do a lof of the same I think about doing once I retire myself.]

What investments do you like the best and why?

While I was growing my net worth, low cost index funds were my main choice. For years and years we socked away a good amount in them, investing with Vanguard.

In 2010 shortly after the real estate crash, I bought 14 rental units which I still have today. I knew I needed retirement income and these places provide 70% of our income now, allowing us not to have to spend any of our assets in retirement. Because I bought near the bottom of the market, the places have performed well both from an income and appreciation standpoint.

[I’ve come to think that ETFs are really the best investment if you are not a hands-on guy. 14 rental units is HUGE. Many congrats!]

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

Here they are, not in any particular order:

  • Colorado Springs, CO — We live here now and it’s AWESOME! The weather is great and there’s so much to do in Colorado.
  • Nashville, TN — We lived in Nashville for five years in the mid 90’s and loved it. It’s a lot more fun and a lot less “country” than most people think.
  • Michigan — We lived in West Michigan for 14 years and it’s where my kids still consider “home”. Winters are brutal but summers are great.
  • Washington, D.C. — Been there several times and headed back this fall. Love the city — so much to see and do. My daughter will be attending college nearby starting this fall, so we’ll get there even more often.
  • Chicago — Love the vibe and stuff to do in the Windy City. Oh, and the pizza is to die for!!!
  • Moscow, Russia — We have been here three times and love the history and culture.
  • St. Martin — We’ve been to many Caribbean islands and this is one of our favorites. Clean, safe, and beautiful.
  • St. Thomas — One of the U.S. Virgin Islands, it’s an awesome spot to vacation. It’s centrally located which makes it easy to get from here to several other great islands. This is our leading candidate for our January stay next winter.
  • Barbados — The clearest, warmest water we’ve seen in the Caribbean.
  • Antigua — We have been on a catamaran that spent the whole day going around the island (we did this twice). Simply beautiful.
  • Aruba — Went here with my parents before we had kids and want to get back soon.

[St. Martin, St. Thomas and Barbados… you’re into the good stuff! Never been there.]

What are your goals for 2017?

My blog goals are detailed here. The site had its first post in November of 2015, but I didn’t begin posting regularly until August 2016, so I still consider myself less than a year old. My main plan is to simply keep writing great content that readers want to read.

As for personal goals, I break those down into categories — family, finances, fitness, etc. There are too many goals to share but suffice to say I have both daily tasks and annual goals I want to hit in every area.

[Awesome, enjoy the post-financial freedom road!]

What do you like most about my blog, From Cents to Retirement? Do you have any advice for me?

I like 1) that you live outside the US (it’s good to have different perspectives), 2) that you’re young and starting out (so interesting to see how people make their way), and 3) you have a big goal (retiring at 36.)

My advice would be to earn, save, and invest as much as you can as soon as you can. Everything else will take care of itself if you do those three.

[Thanks for the tips, and thanks for the interview bud! All the best.]

economy 10 years
Lifestyle, Planning,

A few things that will be big in the economy 10 years from now

Becoming a blogger allowed me to open my horizons at many levels. Last month I rebranded my blog, with a new logo and a theme. I also ordered a promo video for the blog on Fiverr. It got me thinking… My blog became a (very small) business and I find myself outsourcing a few things to cheap freelancers all over the world. I talked to many online entrepreneurs this month, and they all told me the same: online businesses can be great and their potential is definitely augmented by freelance online marketplace platforms, such as Fiverr and Upwork.

I feel that if we had to hire somebody full time (or a regular freelancer, for that matter), the vast majority of us would refrain from starting a (online) business. The setup costs would simply be too high. Online businesses enable us to get access to very cheap labor, without having to compromise quality. Do you want to hire an expert for a one-off job without having permanent costs? Fiverr-alike platforms enable you to do just that. On top of that, you can find pretty much every type of service offered on this kind of platforms.

More and more people value flexibility in their jobs. 20 years ago, no company would allow you to start “until 10am” and work from home “a few times a month”. Companies have learned that people want flexibility, and offer them just that. On top of that, it’s now known to increase productivity (and working time and productivity are two very different things…). At the same time, more and more people decided to start their own businesses. As for Fiverr-alike platforms, the majority of people work there to make some extra bucks at the end of the month, but you also find many people making a living off of it.

There are many advantages to this type of platforms. First, they enable you to get in touch with people from all over the world (meaning every kind of market). In some markets, $100 is enough money to live on the entire month. No wonder they only charge $5 for 3 hours of their skills. Second, they allow you to outsource without having to hire. Yes, regular freelancers did that before Fiverr came about, but they were certainly in your market and you didn’t have the full spectrum of skills that Fiverr offers.

Environment

I honestly think that we’ll quickly migrate to an environment where the main workforce of businesses is outsourced online. Both having a business and trading your time for dollars is becoming more and more deprecated. I think we’ll witness a stellar growth of these platforms (in terms of customers and providers) in the next years. Personally, I see myself as a big client of these platforms as I grow my online businesses.

I should also say that after blogging I realized that the only institutions I will ever work for are universities. I will not consider working for a company ever again because I now understand the game. The main point is that companies pay you a fraction of what you generate every month. You’re happy with your salary, the benefits and what not. They don’t want to lose you, so they will increase your salary every now and then just to keep you motivated – most increases are actually ridiculous, BTW.

At the same time, because of your pay, the bank will lend you money so you can buy a home and turn your dreams into reality. You’re officially in the rat race. You need that paycheck at the end of the month, you’ve got a mortgage to pay. And kids to feed. You’re stuck. They make more money with you, so they increase your salary once again, by a tiny amount. It motivates you for that year. And this goes on and on and on like a hamster on a wheel. If we stop to think about it, we’ll realize that this strategy will prevent most of us from setting ourselves free. People get themselves more and more into the rat race as their salary increases. Companies will adjust the salary with fine detail: they want people to think they are getting rich, but they can’t let that happen – otherwise they leave.

Machine learning

A final note on machine learning, because it will be very big, in my opinion. Some visionaries do now believe that art degrees will be more valuable in 10 years from now on. I think this says a lot about it. In particular, I believe that many algorithms will have a lot of machine learning and AI components. My particular opinion is that online algorithms are rapidly moving that way.

At the same time, I think that mass tech gadgets will continue to steadily evolve over the next years. In particular, I believe that there will be a huge progress on smartphones and drones.

Virtual – real world interaction

We can’t deny it. Social media has really become the thing of the past 10 years. It has been happening so fast that it is actually difficult to realize how big social media got. Pinterest has launched about 7 years ago. As of February 2017, it had 150 million active users. Not many companies get so big so fast, with… about 800 employees. Also launched about 7 years ago, Instagram has now 600 million monthly visitors. It is happening, whether we realize it or now. I happen to think that there will be a lot of room for growth in the interaction with social media – we have way too many people using it to not capitalize on that.

At the same time, I think that mass tech gadgets will continue to steadily evolve over the next years. In particular, I believe that there will be a huge progress on smartphones and drones and the economy will revolve around mass tech and its usage in the real world. It will also increase mobility. I am not only talking about Uber and Uber-alike companies that will come about but mobility from every angle. Apps will definitely be the body of mobility of many things we thought were only possible to do or experience in one particular location.

Again, virtually everyone uses smartphones now and everyone has experienced some of their potentials. The money is where people are at. I have no doubt that smartphones will become way more sophisticated and have way more impact in our lives.

Sustainable transportation

As a Tesla lover and believer, I can’t really avoid this one. I believe that electric cars will take over in the next years. Actually, they won’t take over because they are eco-friendly or anything of that sort, if you ask me. I think Tesla is a magical company which is going to make electric cars more beautiful (this is already done, really 🙂 ), faster, safer and cheaper (well, most of this is already true). The model 3 will probably be the game changer and I do believe that Tesla will achieve all this with the profit made on the model 3. OK, but ain’t most of this already happening?

Yes, but what if I told you that I believe that the car technology we have right now will soon migrate to airplanes? Have you thought about the actual reason why Elon Musk – the greatest – has invested in electric cars (Tesla), rockets (Space X) and Solar panels (Solar city) all at the same time? Synergies…

What do you think will become big in the next 10 years? Let me know!

salary vs hourly
Lifestyle, Planning,

Salary vs hourly: benefits, pros and cons, and taxes

Since I started working, I was always salaried (or had a grant). Now that I decided to completely change my life (and if you’re in that transition period, check out this awesome book), this old question popped up and I found myself thinking about it. As I said before, I was offered a part-time research position (in the form of a grant), which I took. This is the most unscientific graph of history, which shows that I will devote as much time to this blog as I do to my new job:

salary vs hourly : moving to a new job and time allocated to the blog

 

As I define the number of hours I work every week, it is somewhat comparable to being an hourly employee. I decided to address this “Salary vs hourly” question in a broader context, using my own situation as a reference. Let us first go through the pros and cons associated with this question.

Salary Pros

I have been a salaried employee my entire professional life, so I know this position very well.

  • There are usually way more benefits in salaried positions, such as unemployment benefits, sick leaves and what not. On top of that, as you develop a relationship with your employer, you are also allowed to take some time off, work from home and leave earlier. In Germany, it is common that most employees leave earlier on Fridays too. In Portugal, working from home is becoming more and more of a trend.
  • Vacation and bonuses. While in Europe it has been more and more common to structure each employee’s salary such that bonuses are included, in the US most employees who receive bonuses are those working in sales or are managers. In most cases, bonuses programs are based on the performance of each employee, which means that higher productivity may translate into a higher salary in this case.
  • Stability. I know that most salary positions among my friends tend to be way longer than hourly positions. This is one of the most important questions of the salary vs hourly debate, in my opinion.

Salary Cons

  • For most positions, the hourly rate you end up getting earning may not be that attractive. Especially if you end up working more than the default 160 monthly hours. In my own case, I ended up doing that and I actually figured that I worked upwards to 220 hours, which meant that my salary came out at $10 per hour.
  • The flexibility that you have sometimes is compensated by not really knowing when you are done for the day. Usually, your tasks are part of monthly or yearly goals, so if deadlines come about, you may end up leaving way later. I feel that this is way more common in Portugal and Canada than Germany, where people tend to follow more standard working schedules.

Hourly Pros

Some of my previous co-workers were hourly workers, and I’ve got to talk to them often about this topic, and so I think that I know what are the main pros and cons of this position. At the same time, I must say that this is way more common in the US and Canada than in Europe (both Portugal and Germany).

  • Set hours. Maybe you’re like me and like to define your entire schedule for the day. It helps greatly to have set hours.
  • Overtime paid really well. You may end up earning 2.5x your hourly rate. If you are requested a lot, and you are willing to work your but off, it may be a great way to save some big bucks.
  • Increased earnings potential. If you work by the hour, chances are that you can work more time and optimize your working schedule. I actually think of hourly as you being your own boss and renting your time out. You can choose the companies that pay you well.

Hourly Cons

  • Thorough, stressful documentation of your working time. If you spend 5 minutes more at lunch time or leaving a few minutes after 5pm, it won’t go unnoticed. If you are looking for a not-so-stressful position, this salary vs hourly debate should become much simpler because of this.
  • Lack of career progression. While this is not a universal true, it is usually the salaried employees that get the most important positions.
  • Lack of status and creditworthiness before a bank. At least in the environments I know, banks tend to lend you money more easily if you have a salary.

If you are given the option to decide between salary vs hourly, consider the pros and cons for both positions. You’re the best person to decide what fits you the better. Either way, chase your dreams.

Other sources on this subject:

best free real estate books pdf
Books, Real Estate,

The best free Real Estate Investing books (update)

As I promised before, this blog will talk more about Real Estate investing than any other type of investment. This post brings you free real estate books that you can download and read right away. These free real estate investing books are the best real estate books I personally know for free. If you have suggestions of more free real estate books or real estate investing books that one can download in PDF or to the Kindle app, please send me an e-mail with them. Note that the real estate books I report on this page may at some point become paid books, so always check if the final price is $0. Even if they are not, I will keep them here, because there is always the chance of them becoming free again. I will update this page as time often, with more books. Last update: April 14th, 2017

As a real estate investor, I understand that some basic questions for experienced landlords may be a true hustle for beginners in real estate investing. For example, when I bought my very first home, I didn’t know where I could dump a couch or where to get rid of an old mattress. Fortunately, I read a free book explaining where to haul stuff, from couches to mattresses. This may sound like real basic knowledge to you, but believe me, it can be a pain in the ass if it is the first time you do that.

The good news is that there is a ton of free information and real estate books online these days, so there is no need to be scammed anymore. Plus, most real estate books focus on the underlying principles of Real Estate Investing, so you can learn from them regardless where you invest. I have compiled great FREE real estate investing books. You may need a Kindle app to read them, which you can download from here. You can also download these books in PDF and read them on your reader. With the Kindle app, you can read books on your desktop or smartphone.

While my own book also revolves around Real Estate, it is not free. I decided to compile these real estate books and real estate investing books so you can start learning for free. Download the PDFs and start learning!

In the following, I compile a few FREE amazon real estate books and real estate investing books you should get your hands on…

 

  • free real estate book cover 1How to be a Real Estate Investor, by Phil Pustejovsky (Affiliate link). Phil was really one of inspiration sources when I started to invest in Real Estate. I probably watched every single video on his Youtube channel. You can check him out here. In this book, Phil provides a general overview of real estate investing, and excellent guidelines to start investing in Real Estate. It also covers the pros and cons of real estate investing, according to Phil’s personal experience. This book costs $9.97 on Amazon (as of March 2017), but Phil is giving it away for free through a website of his, Freedom Mentor. Just request your copy on this web page.

    free real estate book cover 2

  • Hip Hop 2 Homeowners, by Jay Morrison (Affiliate link). Jay is another of my references when it comes to Real Estate Investing. In this book, Jay reports a fantastic journey, from a criminal career to a Real Estate mogul. He also comments on fixing credit and legal ways to increase your credit score super fast. Throughout the book, Jay reports on his rise, fall and rebirth into the expert he became. His book sells for $12.95 on Amazon (as of March 2017) but Jay is or has offered his book for free from his website. Jay Morrison also has a (very inspiring) YouTube channel, which I also recommend for anyone interested in pursuing a career in real estate.

  • The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Real Estate Investing, by Joshua Dorkin and Brandon Turnerfree real estate book cover 3 from BiggerPockets (Affiliate link). This book provides a few rules of thumb to follow when investing in Real Estate. Although it is a pitch for you to get on the Bigger Pockets forum – in my opinion the best forum on REI out there – it does a great job of introducing you to REI. It touches on several different topics of REI, although it is based on high level (not in-depth) topics. There are a lot of references to BiggerPockets, the authors’ site, which complement the information provided by the book. For me, it was too focused on single family homes, as I like to invest in multi-units, which is the core of my real estate investment strategy.

    free real estate book cover 4

  • Realty Riches for Cowards (Affiliate link). I like this book because it offers a very concise way to start investing in real estate. Ryan Scott actually comes from a very poor upbringing and supported his college costs by investing and managing real estate. Ryan has over fifty years of experience in owning and managing real estate, so this book can be great for you if you follow this very same route. He walks you through the entire process, from selecting the area to invest in and manage the property. This is all presented under a philosophy of investing and making money with real estate.

  • free real estate book cover 5Instant Experience For Real Estate Agents (Affiliate link). I chose this book because of two reasons. First, it is one of the longest books you can find for free (since it has over 70k words!). Secondly, it has more to do with Real Estate agents, which are, in my view, actually a crucial part of Real Estate investing; you gotta be good friends with agents to get good deals, that’s my experience. I learned a lot from the great lessons and the true stories of this book, which I immediately used to my favor to close deals.

 



  • Real Estate Investing: How to Find Cash Buyers and Motivated Sellersfree book find cash buyers and motivated sellers (Affiliate link).
    Speaking of how to find motivated sellers, there you go: a book on that. It also does a good job defining ideal cash buyers, which may be good if you’re looking to flip and sell. I also liked the fact that it goes over the section 8 landlord topic and goes heavy into marketing, which I liked a lot. It is not a book for experienced in investors, in my opinion, but I must say that I learned a lot of different buying and selling scenarios that I didn’t know prior to reading this book.


  • No BS Real Estate Investing, by Preston Ely (Affiliate link). This book revolves around how to wholesale, as the author explains the methods he uses himself to wholesale. I like books that go through strategies that the author uses himself, like this one. As these are a little but unconventional approaches, in my option, it is certainly read also because of that.

  • free real estate book simple secrets happy investor50 Simple Secrets To Be A Happy Real Estate Investor, by John Fedro (Affiliate
    link). Very digestible book that is valuable for any person who wants to start investing in Real Estate. I would call this a mindset book, because it teaches more about how to fame your mind that actually the technical details of real estate investing. I think that Fedro has done a nice wrap up, in the sense that you can thumb through the book and still get the main points and ideas. Took me less than an hour to read this one.

  • The Ultimate Real Estate Investing Blueprint: How to Quit Your Job in 19 Weeks or Less, by eBookIt (Affiliate link).quit your job Short read on the “Blueprint” to REI, as defined by the author. While certainly enough for you to get started with REI, it is another book that you should read, given that it is free. There are a few terms that you should be used to, so I won’t recommend this to be your first REI book, but rather one of the latest free books you read. It does a great job explaining how one can connect and profit from connecting buyers and sellers together. You should expect to learn a few methods including investing in real estate with no money down. I won’t say it is a great book, but if you’re looking for free options you may indeed learn something from it, and therefore it is worth a try.

  • Real Estate Investing Made Easy by Brian Haskins (Affiliate link). real estate investing made easy free bookThis book is a great read for people looking to start wholesaling on the side. It does a good job providing info on wholesaling as general tips to become a better investor. I have followed Brian’s podcasts and I’ve learned a great deal from them, so I decided to read the book. I think that there are many interesting actionable tips for everyone trying to start in REI.

 

I am a classic, aggressive buy and hold real estate investor. To this day, I have read about a myriad of strategies of and information about real estate investing. I understand that, for the majority of people out there, it is very difficult to get started. In my opinion, if you are serious about investing in Real Estate, your best option is to read a lot. Just read as much as you can about investing in real estate. My absolute first recommendation is free real estate books and real estate investing books.

When I started with real estate investing (REI), I felt for some “guru courses” which cost me a lot of money and didn’t really helped me much. What I think its important is to understand the principles behind real estate and real estate investing, other than the specifics of a given market. I invest in Portugal, and having learned the specifics of mortgages and taxes didn’t really help me much when investing in Portugal. Real estate investing books can be great for you to read regardless where you invest, but be cautious to filter out the information depending where and how you invest.

Let me know what you think of these real estate books if you ever read them. I am also eager to know more free real estate books and real estate investing books, to add to this list (other than these, which I already know), or other types of investing. If you shoot me a message with such books (please let me know, for any books you send, whether they are available for free in PDF), I can publish new lists just like this one. In fact, I am looking for free books on stock investing right now. You may also want to check out the section of paid books, which I remodeled this month, and my own book, which I published this month.

 

how to evaluate a rental property
Real Estate,

How to evaluate an investment rental property with the (simple) 7 year rule

Looking for rental properties can be a very stressful and frustrating thing, especially when investors try to evaluate a rental property. Most investors I know, tend to over-complicate or look for the unicorn that never happens. Most successful RE investors look at rental properties in a very simple way and look for very simple attributes. I have also learned to do that, and I consider that it was the key to finding great deals.

evaluate a rental property how to evaluate a rental property

Before you proceed, let me tell you that you can have very different strategies in real estate investing. In my opinion, the most determining factors for choosing the most appropriate methods for evaluating a rental property include:

  • The bank lending you money to buy vs buying and renovating a property;
  • Aiming at a cash flow vs an appreciation portfolio;

In the following, I will tell you how I evaluate a rental property. I assume I can only borrow money to buy a property (and not renovate). In addition, I assume I am looking for high cash flow deals (and discard appreciation all along).

The main numbers to evaluate a rental property – it’s actually simple math!

I’ve seen lots of investors doing crazy when it came to evaluating a rental property. I actually read someone’s comment on MMM forum which referred to a book called “how to evaluate real estate investments”. This guy spent hours and hours reading a book that supposedly helps to evaluate a rental property. I was shocked… I’ve got 10 units with awesome ROIs and I’ve never spent any money reading books on evaluating real properties…

My general thumb rule is: if you’re spending more than 5 minutes determining whether a rental property is a good deal, you’re doing it wrong. I personally look at two or three numbers and that is it. Below you will find my entire rationale when assessing a deal.

Really important stuff you can’t drop the ball on

In my opinion, the most important things when evaluating a rental property include: 1) knowing exactly all the expenses that the previous owner had with the property, 2) knowing exactly how much money you’ll spend, should you need to renovate it, and add 15% to that just in case and 3) knowing that the current rents are not overvalued.

Where I spent my time when I want to evaluate a rental property

First things first. If I am to buy a property, I first try to find a few properties (say 3-5) that look interesting before going further.

Assuming I already found 5 properties that look like good deals, I move on to the next phase and ask a few questions:

  1. Is the current owner a motivated seller? (I need to be truthful with you – you won’t know this every time)
  2. How much money would I have to spend to build this property, and how does it compare to the listing price?
  3. Assuming there are already some tenants, would they stay if raised the rent by 10%? Do they have any personal relationship with the current owner?
  4. Assuming there are no tenants, at what price point (in terms of rent) would I need to go to rent the unit in 1 day?
  5. Because of hidden costs, the renovation of the property will be 50% higher than the quote I’ve got. Is it still a good deal?

OK, now, let us start filtering the properties

  1. I only work with very motivated sellers. If the properties are on the market for less than 6 months, I won’t even inquire the real estate agent.
  2. I only look at properties that would cost me about 5-10 times more to build than the listing price. This is why I look at multi-unit properties. Single unit properties almost never follow this.
  3. I would try everything to get to talk to the current tenants – you need to check whether this is legal in your country and you definitely need the approval of the current owner and the real estate agent. Do not do try to talk to the tenants without letting them know!
  4. I would go to a different real estate company, say that I may have that property in the next months and ask for an honest opinion regarding how much the property could rent for!
  5. I always get two to three quotes on the renovation of the property.

OK, now I am down to 1 or 2 properties. It’s negotiation time…

But wait… what defines a good deal?

This makes me get back to the original question of whether you are aiming at finding a cash flow or an appreciation property. I follow a free cash flow investment model, so I always look at cash flow deals. That is what the following rules pertain to.

It must be paid in up to 7 years

As a cash flow guy, I look forward to getting my capital back as soon as possible, and that is what I think of when investing. How much time will it take for me to get my capital back?

The math is actually quite simple. I (under) estimate the gross monthly income of the property. If 4 or fewer years of similar income pay off the property, I assume it is a good deal. The rest of the time (until 7 years) would pay for property expenses and taxes.

The beauty of this rule is that I use it regardless I borrow money from the bank (in which case I ignore the interest and assume the initial cost and the full price) or not. Of course that, in the case you borrow money, if you buy a property for 100k and 7 * 12 * rental income = 100k, you won’t have it paid in 7 years because you gotta pay interest. However, the rule will still indicate you whether the deal is a good one!

Let us look at my real estate properties and apply the same rationale:

RP#1: Bought all cash, from a very motivated seller. I knew I would never be able to get my investment back in 7 years with this property, but this investment was a slightly different one. Being a 1-unit property, I knew it was very liquid. I bought it so much underprice that my initial idea was to flip it, sell it off and move onto the next property. I ended up renting it out. As tenants are leaving this property next month, I may sell it for a nice profit and acquire another multi-unit.

RP#2: Borrowed money. Paid €41000 (closing costs included) to buy it. Currently, the gross yearly rent income is €6060. It passes the 7-year rule.

RP#3: Borrowed money. Paid €36500 (closing costs included) and spent about €30000 renovating it. Currently, the gross yearly rent income is €5700 but I project it to be €11200 without renovating it further (as I have free units which I will rent out in the next months). It passes well the 7-year rule and in fact is better than 6 years.

Summary

I keep things when evaluating rental properties and real estate investments. Of course that you can even take expensive courses that explain how to evaluate a rental property, but in my opinion, the math should stay simple.

I use the 7-year rule, regardless I borrow money to buy the property or not. This rule basically means that a good deal generates the full paid price in 7 years or less. It has worked very well for me since I started to using it and it definitely keeps things simple and efficient. Focus your time on other things that matter, such as finding motivated sellers (who will sell off their properties at huge discounts) and determining whether the current rents are sustainable. Have a few contractors look at the property and tell you whether there is something you missed. Keep the math simple.

Happy hunting!

financial freedom
Daily life, Planning,

Financial freedom – what is it, what is necessary to get it and why I want it

I have covered the topic “financial freedom” in detail in my book “My strategy to retire early” but today I want to go over on a few angles of this topic.

What is financial freedom?

For me, financial freedom means that you attain a certain level of wealth that you don’t need to work for money anymore. This can be achieved in various ways. You can win the lottery. You can inherit more money you’ll ever spend. Maybe even sell the company you’ve built from the ground up and get a nice exit. Or you can do what I am doing: save aggressively, invest wisely, and ultimately build a nest egg that pays you enough money to live off.

If you ask people whether they want to be financially free, most will say yes. However, they lose site of this by putting other things first. Most people get themselves into huge debt for a home and a car (not to mention college debt). Others keep using their credit cards to buy stuff they really don’t need, just to have a spike of excitement (I will not even call it happiness) when they buy it.

If you want to achieve financial freedom, you will have to adopt a whole new set of rules for your life and eventually become a different person. And to truly do and embrace that, you’ll have to assess whether this is a true priority in your life. Otherwise, my experience is that it won’t work. Ask yourself questions like “am I OK with living off of 30% of my salary for 10 years?”. Or “am I strong enough to make my own meals and coffee (instead of going out) every day?”. I can’t tell you exactly what it will take for you to become financially free. However, questions like these will give you a good idea of what it really takes.

What is necessary in order to achieve financial freedom?

Piling up money is probably not the best strategy to attain financial freedom. Technically, you can achieve financial freedom if you pile up enough money to live off of, but this is a very hard way to do it. It is simply extremely difficult to pile enough money to live off of, for the rest of your life. To start off, inflation will remove transactional value of your money every single year. The idea is to save and invest, and make more money on your saved and invested money. Think of it as buying your own salary by pieces, if that makes sense. There is one especially popular chart in the ER community that works magically well:

(taken from familymoneyplan.com)

The chart basically represents a trade-off of how much you save and how many years it will take you to retire. For example, if you save 70% of your salary, it will take you about 10 years to retire. Interestingly enough, this works regardless you make 300k or 30k! The key idea is that you can live off a certain amount and you have to build a nest egg that will pay you that amount every year (ideally you want to grow it a little just to be on the safe side). Of course that this means that two people living off of 300k and 30k will have very different annual spending figures.

I like to think about in a slightly different way. To live comfortably well in Portugal, I will need a net “salary” of about €20k/year (as of April 2017). In order to net 20k from my investments, assuming a 8% return rate and 2% inflation, I would need a portfolio of about €333k. Now, let us consider a more conservative return rate, of 6,5%, and 3,5% average inflation. This means that I will net 3% of my portfolio, every year. To get €20k net per year in these conditions, my portfolio would have to be at €670k. This is, in fact, my first goal.

Having children changes things a little bit. If I were to have one child, I would have to increase my living costs by $1000/mo. With a return rate of 6,5%, and a 3,5% inflation rate, I would need a little bit more than one million bucks to net 32k/year.

Why do I want to achieve financial freedom?

If you follow my blog of you have read my book, you know that I want to retire because I have the Chronic fatigue syndrome and sometimes I just drag myself to the office. But even if I were absolutely healthy, I think I would trying to retire as well.

Whether you want to achieve financial freedom is up to you. Look deep inside and find out if you really wanna do that. Even if you already know you want to achieve financial freedom, looking deep down for the actual reasons will give you strength to fight. And boy, this is one heck of a hard road!

How do I imagine my financial freedom?

Just because I plan to retire early it doesn’t mean I will stop working. As I said, what I really want is to be able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. Maybe surprisingly for some, I love to work. In fact, most of my time is spent working on stuff I love. If you didn’t achieve financial freedom yet, you won’t be able to work on what you want. You will have to work for money. This may come in the form of a boss or your own business, but there are many things you must do even when you don’t feel like it. And that is the whole point of financial freedom. Here are some examples of stuff I will do after I achieve financial freedom:

  • Blogging. I’ve always loved to write, but blogging is a lot more than writing. If we consider the tasks underlying a blog, writing is one of the smallest tasks of a blogger. Content creation involves much more than simply writing. But content creation is not even the bulk of one blogger’s tasks. I want From cents to retirement to become a reference for personal finances and early retirement. In order to turn a blog into a reference, you need to work very hard.
  • Going into nature way more often. I love to hike (especially in not so popular wood trails), find hidden lakes and waterfalls and what not.
  • Working out more often. Between 2010 and 2012, I used to workout 3 times a week every week. My shape was amazing. I ended up giving up of that due to lack of time.
  • Write more books. I wish I had the time to write two books every year.
  • Give back to the community. I plan to help those in need, especially those with CFS.
  • Coaching other people. I have a few clients right now (I have a partner who is generous enough to send some clients over), and I coach a few friends. However, I would like to coach and help people on a much more broader scale.

If you liked this post, then I recommend you to check out the resources down below.

Ben Davis

More resources on financial freedom:

goals for the new quarter 2017
Blog, Planning, SEO,

Another quarter, new hard goals for the blog!

You know what I like the most? A hard challenge. I’ve bought myself one with this SEO story, really.

So the story goes that I didn’t rank for anything on Google, even if I had the best keywords. I’d work very hard to find the best keywords and be left on the 4th page of Google. Can you relate? Yes, I know, it sucks! As a result, I told myself I would not let this happen much longer, and I started a crazy SEO experiment (check out the first part here). The SEO experiment will include several parts, and cover various angles of SEO, from backlink building to social media. Of course, I had to start off with backlink building because despite what all other metrics may impact your rankings, backlinks are still the most important one.

Although I’ve been successfully executing most tasks, I failed most deadlines of the end goals I had defined. I said that I expected 10%-15% of traffic from organic search, but I am still at 7%… so something was wrong.

Looking at the backlink profile that I have built, you’ll see it is not the best one. I clearly made a mistake building so many nofollow links, as this generated a bad link profile. I committed myself to fix this ASAP and I am ready to make it right.

I’ve got a new challenge now, and I am publically assuming that I am in the SEO business now!

For now, let’s have a look at my ugly stats. I am still comparing myself to the competitor I used in the first part of the SEO experiment  – once I beat him, I will progressively compare myself to stronger competitors:

page authority domain authority moz

vs my competitor:

page authority domain authority moz

Yes, he got me. However, according to my estimates, I think that I can beat him by the end of this quarter, assuming he continues to grow at the same pace! Keep in mind that this guy is blogging for over two years whereas I just crossed the 1-year mark.

I can’t ensure dates on when to show my PA and my DA because Moz is not keeping the updates on the announced dates. I am not sure when they will be released. Let us now look at the rest of the stats.

As of March 24th, I had 5.420 backlinks:

backlinks

Not only I don’t have many backlinks, as my ratio of follow/nofollow backlinks absolutely sucks:

backlinks follow dofollow nofollow

My trust flow is 7, my citation flow is 17, making both of them well below average. This low number of backlinks (especially follow backlinks) translates in very little organic traffic from search engines:

traffic organic search

The reason why I have been increasing my traffic from search engines isn’t that much connected to the number of backlinks I built so far. It has primarily to do with the fact that I managed to rank for many keywords with low competition. Keep in mind that most SEO tools estimate your traffic based on the volumes of the keywords you rank for. So very high-volume keywords may actually lead the tool to think that you’re getting a lot of traffic, even if you rank 20th!

BTW – this is really me – I am never truly happy with the results I achieve as I always want more and more. I expect to hit the points above to reach 2000 by the end of this quarter as I expect to increase by at least 100% every month (meaning, for the worst case scenario, 400 by April, 800 by May and 1600 by June).

Clearly, my long-term efforts didn’t pay off so far. However, I am aware that I have chosen the hardest approach there is. Great keyword research won’t do the trick unless I increment my number of follow links substantially. I need to change this.

So, I am calling myself out and as always I am going big… I am setting the bar high for this quarter, and boy, I will do everything in my power to crush it!

The Goals

Goal 0: Fix my link profile

Drastically sanitize my link profile and have more follow links than nofollow links in the long term.

Goal 1: Increase my traffic from organic search to 20%

As I said, I failed my goals until now, in terms of traffic from search engines. I thought I would be at 15% and I am still at 7%. This time, I will play a little bit more conservative and aim at achieving 20% (instead of 50%, which is what I had planned to be in the beginning of the year). I am confident I will reach and cross this mark, but I’ll play conservative, as I said. Either way, this is enough time for SEO to take on, so I won’t have any excuses.

Goal 2: Reach 3000 subscribers and 6.000 likes on Facebook

Another bar I set very high – 6.000 subscribers until the end of the year. I think that it will be easier than Facebook’s goal of 25.000 likes, but a hard nut to crack, still.

There is not much secrecy on what it takes to increase the number of subscribers, as far as I know. Have awesome content and get your blog out there for people to visit it. Those who really like your content will subscribe. I will consider using more techniques – such as giving away small (yet valuable) e-books, but not in this quarter. What I will do is to guest post a lot, as I said, and hope that I bring a lot of targetted viewers who like my site and subscribe.

I am now on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest (if you haven’t followed yet, please do). In this quarter, I need to ridiculously increase the number of likes/followers to meet my goals for the year (which I only set for Facebook – 25.000 likes). Maybe I set the bar ridiculously high for Facebook but I prefer to go big and fail then go small and win. This quarter, I will use a few tricks I have been learning!

Most people say that social media platforms are not that relevant for SEO. I agree that they are not that tightly connected (even though social signals are part of Google’s ranking metrics for sure!). However, I feel it is a great way to disseminate my material and get the word out – which may get me some organic backlinks (and views, obviously). I do have a solid strategy to increase my facebook likes substantially, but I won’t reveal it before testing it. I will detail everything on my next SEO experiment update.

Goal 3: Publish every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday

I have been accomplishing this week after week and I am confident I will not fail in the entire quarter. I try to schedule myself out for 2-4 weeks and that is the trick, really.

The strategy

So, in order to accomplish these goals, here’s what my strategy will revolve around…

Build more high-quality dofollow backlinks

Right now, most of my backlinks are nofollow. Although I’ve nailed it at keyword research, I need to dramatically increase my PA and DA for the keywords to work.

As I said before, nofollow backlinks are great for various reasons, but they won’t help with SEO. Plus, I believe that Google assesses the dofollow:nofollow ratio and penalizes sites with a bad ratio. That is my case (at least the bad ratio part – not sure I am being penalized), as I showed you above. So, the first thing is to build lots of dofollow links, and revert the situation. But there is more… my trust ratio and my DA are so bad I shouldn’t even be showing them. This means that I need links from highly trusted / high DA sources. In essence, I need lots of guest posts on great blogs. Guest posts are not the only way to increase backlinks from high DA sources, but as I don’t have my name out there yet (because I haven’t been guest posting enough, which means low DA, which means that very few new readers come to my blog) I don’t have many organic backlinks yet. See the catch 22? Me to! So…

Task no. 1: Write at least 40 guest posts and generate at least 80 backlinks

The key is to seek and find high DA sites that will accept a guest post from me. Sites with lower DA won’t help in the rankings, and guest posts do take a lot of time (at least for me – I like awesomeness), so I need to have a time-efficient MO. At this point, I feel confident that From Cents To Retirement has a lot of great content and I won’t have problems in getting the guest posts I am looking for. I will write 40 guest posts this quarter, which will generate 80 backlinks (at 2 links a pop, on average). 40 guest posts in the quarter mean one guest post at ever 2.25 days. Feasible? I am not sure yet but I will try my very best to do this. I am not starting from scratch, though, as I arranged some guest posts in March. I will aim at publishing 14 guest posts per month, in the next 3 months.

Interviews are a quicker way to get backlinks and exposure. I prefer to guest post than to give interviews, although I love to host interviews with other bloggers on From Cents To Retirement. I will give some interviews (instead of writing guest posts) depending on my schedule and preferences of the hosts.

As I said, I expect 80 backlinks from this experiment (an average of 2 links per posts). This will definitely be the hardest (and most time-consuming) task in the entire experiment. Although, I believe it will be the most profitable one – or at least the one with most impact.

Task no. 2: Legally “steal” competitor backlinks

On top of that, and just to make sure I attain my goal, I will also use other strategies to get bloggers linking to my site. In particular, I will test one strategy (of 3) per month. I am sticking to whatever generates 10 links a month! From this, I expect 20 backlinks for the quarter, thus reaching 100 dofollow backlinks in 3 months.

The idea is quite simple: spy on my competitors and go after the same links. I have done this in the past, successfully, for nofollow links! Now I will go after dofollow links (a much harder task, obviously), but I also have better tools and more experience now. Dofollows are much more complicated because they depend on the will of the admins of the sites where you’re looking to get a link from.

Of course that with so many guest posts, I will start to put my name out there and that will generate views and (hopefully) some organic backlinks, as people find my content. However, I won’t rely on that as a means to generate backlinks. On top of that, I can ensure you that I will publish 3 posts per week despite I have to allocate most of my time to write guest posts.

 

This is it, let us see how I do in the next quarter. As you can see, I could not be more transparent about this. I am working hard and I will work harder and above all more efficiently in the next quarter. Wish me luck!

Ben

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

March 2017 (Online Income: $208.58)

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 $208.58 this month? First, the breakdown:

Bluehost : $100
Affiliate marketing : $35.88
My book : $45.36 (I set the price of the book to $1 as a special offer to my subscribers)
Consultancy fees : $0 (turned down some work, because I was really busy with other projects)
Google adsense : $2.34
Paid surveys : $25

Total : $208.58

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.

Note that although I am commited 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.

Expenses

This month, I had considerable expenses with the re-branding of the blog:

New template for site : $49
Programmer : $50 (eventually I had another programmer helping me out, but as he is my personal friend, I am not sure how I will pay him)
Promo video : $20

Total : $119

These expenses are pretty much 1-time expenses and now I don’t expect to spend money on the blog until the end of the year.

Views

I changed my strategy pertaining to traffic. Although I’ve proven in the past that I can send a lot of traffic to the blog (see the traffic in Sep-Dec in the picture below), in I am not interested in doing that anymore. Yes, that does convert some people into loyal readers, it does increase the number of subscribers and followers (not to mention that I make way more money that way). However, not only that takes most of my time (which I could invest in producing awesome content for my blog) as the traffic falls immediately if I stop using those channels.

I am now interested in building a sustainable platform that grows steadily and organically, as I am confident that I have now enough valuable content for that. To do that, there are a few things I am focusing on: the site authority (PA and DA), high-quality referrals and growing my social media accounts.

This month, my traffic was pretty similar to that of February, totaling about 21k views. SEO is yet to take off (which now makes sense to me – I need 3 months of hard work to start seeing good results from that – I will talk a lot about this on Friday) and I’ve had increased traffic from referrals even though I haven’t been featured on any major site yet. Now, I did expect to drive a lot of traffic in a “sustainable way” but it didn’t happen. I know what went wrong and I will correct that in the future, when I use the same strategy.

views march 2017 blog traffic income diary blogging for money how to make money with a blog paid surveys

and the number of sessions:

sessions march 2017 blog traffic

Once again, I have 50% new and 50% returning visitors and the bouncing has decreased to 71.46% (I am killing it on organic searches, as I have bounding rates of up to 43%!). The blog theme is now much more user-friendly and I do expect to decrease my bouncing rate even more.

My Alexa rank is still good, and I haven’t had a big penalty for “losing” the December stats (although you can clearly see the drop at the end of the month) – Alexa is based on the 3 previous months. Let us see how it will come out next month.

alexa ranking march 2017

Social Media

Last month, my Facebook page grew by 31 likes (an increase of about 8%). This month, I used many other techniques and I was able to grow it by 99 likes – to 530 likes – an increase of about 23%. This is more exciting because if I continued to grow my facebook page at 23% compound, I’d have 3415 likes by the end of the year. Yes, this is still nothing compared to my goal of 25.000 likes, but I will use some tricks to increase it and I am finally considering using some Facebook ads to put some gasoline in the process. Social media will be the cornerstone of part II of my crazy SEO experiment (check out part I here), and I expect a massive increase of likes.

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 900 to 938, wich means an increase of about 4%. I know exactly why I had a smaller increase than last month – I sent two many newsletters and I had a lot of unsubscriptions. 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.

Goals for March 2017:

  • Release my book. DONE!
  • Increase the number of likes on my Facebook page to 750.  FAIL. (I was to partner with a SM company, which didn’t happen yet)
  • Increase the number of blog subscribers to 1100. FAIL. (I expected to drive a lot of traffic to the blog, which didn’t happen)
  • Reach at least 50k views on my blog. FAIL. (same as above)
  • Make about $500 online. FAIL. (a direct consequence of not driving enough traffic)

Goals till April 30th:

  • Increase the number of likes on my Facebook page to 700.
  • Increase the number of blog subscribers to 1100.
  • Increase the number of followers on Twitter to 200.
  • Write at least 14 guest posts (check out the post on Friday to know why…)
  • Reach at least 40k views on my blog.
  • Make about $400 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