Rereading The Truth About Money Part 1 (2007-10-10)

Four Obstacles To Wealth
It is for all these reasons--to protect against risk; to eliminate debt; you're going to live a long time; to hand such major expenses as children, college costs and weddings; to buy cars and homes; to afford a comfortable retirement; to protect against long-term care costs; and to pass wealth to your heirs--that you need to create a financial plan.
--Ric Edelman, The Truth About Money

Part I of The Truth About Money, "Introduction to Financial Planning," discusses the reasons one needs and wants money. Chapter 1 then lists "The Four Obstacles to Building Wealth": procrastination, spending habits, inflation, and taxes.

Imagine a raise of $100 per month invested in stocks producing a combined 10% return. As Kiyosaki writes, buy an asset the produces portfolio income. Investing $100 per month from age 28 to age 65 (e.g., now until 2044) would be a total investment of $44,400. Compounding would make the investment worth almost $414,000.

This scenario enables calculating an example of the four obstacles Ric Edelman lists:
  1. First, reducing the years of contribution from 37 to 25 (e.g., now until 2032) illustrates the effects of procrastination. If the same investment begins at age 40 instead of age 28, the total contributions decrease to $30,000, while the investment value at age 65 decreases to a little more than $123,000. This is almost $291,000 less than original scenario!
  2. Imagine celebrating the raise by buying a Starbucks Grande Caffè Mocha on the way to work each day, except two vacation weeks. This spending habit could reduce the $100 raise by about $67, leaving $33 per month for investment. At age 65 there would be almost $135,000, or $279,000 less than the original scenario.
  3. The preceding examples ignore inflation. If inflation were nominally 3% per year, $1.00 at age 28 would buy as much as $3.03 at age 65. So the $414,000 at age 65 would only buy as much as $137,000 did at age 28. Inflation would remove more than $277,000 of purchasing power.
  4. Finally, consider taxes. A $100 raise could have a marginal tax rate of 33%. Kiyosaki notes the US government taxes earned income the most. This could reduce contributions to $67 per month, less than $30,000 total. At age 65--ignoring capital gains taxes--there would be almost $279,000. Withdrawing from the investment each year to pay capital gains tax, however, would reduce the value to about $203,000, or about $210,000 less than the original scenario.
In summary, the example effects of the four obstacles to wealth are as follows:
  1. Twelve years of procrastination reduces the value of the sample investment by $291,000.
  2. A workday mocha spending habit reduces the sample investment by $279,000.
  3. Three percent inflation reduces the purchasing power of the sample investment by $277,000.
  4. Income and capital gains taxes could reduce the value of the sample investment by $210,000.
The conclusions appear to be start now, buy assets instead of consumable expenses, invest to beat personal inflation, and take advantage of tax deferral. These are beyond the scope of this blog post, however.

(The remainder of this post explains calculation details: As an example--not an endorsement--, First American Mutual Funds FSKSX had a past performance of approximately 10%. The calculations use 9.569% compounded monthly, with no volatility for simplicity. Each scenario has additional assumptions:
  1. The future value (37 years * 12 months/year =) 444 months later of a $100 per month annuity at (9.569%/year / 12 months/year = ) 0.7974 % per month is $413,890.79. The future value of the same annuity only (25 years * 12 months/year =) 300 months later is $123,333.15.
  2. On Capitol Hill, Seattle, 8.9% sales tax makes a $2.95 mocha cost $3.21. Five mocha purchases per week for 50 weeks of the year is an average of 21 mocha purchases per month. The average cost is then $67.41 per month.
  3. The inflation calculation assumes 0.25% per month, which is similar to current values but low considering long-term averages. The present value of a future sum of $413,890.79 at a rate of 0.25% per month for 444 months is $136,590.49.
  4. A "regular" employee who earns $30,651 to $74,200 per year in Washington state would have no state income tax, but would pay 25% United States income tax plus 6.2% for Social Security plus 1.45% for Medicare. For that tax bracket capital gains taxes are 15%. The calculation assumes this applies to all the gains, which is the worst-case scenario--but still has less effect than the spending habit or procrastination example.)


Reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad (2007-10-07)

Rich Dad, Poor Dad
If you want a lesson in confusion, simply look up the words "asset" and "liability" in the dictionary.... An asset is something that puts money in my pocket. A liability is something that takes money out of my pocket. This is really all you need to know. If you want to be rich, simply spend your life buying assets. If you want to be poor or middle class, spend your life buying liabilities.
Robert T. Kiyosaki, Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids about Money--That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not!

Being from a middle-class background, the subtitle of Rich Dad, Poor Dad caught my eye in the Barnes and Noble personal finance area Saturday. As several responses to Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight show, I like anecdotes. I read with interest Kiyosaki's contrast between his rich capitalist businessman dad and his poor socialist employee dad during his childhood in Hawai`i.

The folksy capitalist philosophy in Rich Dad, Poor Dad begins with an income statement and balance sheet. Kiyosaki simplifies each into two boxes with a line in the middle: for the income statement the line is horizontal, and for the balance sheet the line is vertical.

In the top of the income statement are earned income ("work for owner"), passive income, and portfolio income. In the bottom of the income statement are taxes ("work for government"), ownership-related expenses, and other expenses. Subsequent diagrams expand on portfolio income (dividends, interest, rental income, royalties), ownership-related expenses (mortgage payments, real property taxes, insurance, maintenance, utilities), and other expenses (fixed expenses, food, clothing, fun).

In the left side of the balance sheet are assets which create income--your business, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, income-generating real estate, notes, and intellectual property. In the right side of the balance sheet are liabilities ("work for bank") which create expenses--consumer loans, credit cards, and mortgages.

Poor Dad says, "Go to school, get good grades, and find a safe secure job." In other words, concentrate on earned income in the top of the income sheet. Rich Dad says, "The rich don't work for money, they have their money work for them." In other words, concentrate on passive and portfolio income in the top of the income sheet--with passive income being faster. In the bottom of the income sheet, the government taxes earned income the most, and passive income the least.

Rich Dad, Poor Dad consequently characterizes classes using these boxes. The earned income of the poor pays expenses in the income statement and little affects the balance sheet. For the middle class, expenses and taxes rise with income in the income statement, as do liabilities incurred on the balance sheet. The income of the rich purchases income-producing assets, with less rise in expenses or liabilities. (For example, a corporation deducts expenses from income before taxation.) In this way they practice the "pay yourself first" advice of The Richest Man in Babylon.

The challenge is defining "your business." Kiyosaki writes, "If I have to work there, it's not a business. It becomes my job." Timothy Ferriss has similar suggestions for a "muse" in the "Income Autopilot" chapters in "Step III: A is Automation" of The 4-Hour Workweek.

The goal for both Ferriss and Kiyosaki is freedom. The latter explains his wants:
I want to be free to travel the world and live in the lifestyle I love. I want to be young when I do this. I want to simply be free. I want control over my time and my life. I want money to work for me.
Readers of this blog will recognize this desire to travel and live abroad.

[Added diagram and corrected word.]


Simplifying on Saturday (2007-10-06)

I set aside days to reduce, organize, and save time. I want less clutter, and less to move if we live abroad. Between the winter solstice and the following new moon is one of the quarterly periods of Discardia, so I picked the first Saturday of the month.

This was similar to the three Saturdays in 2007-04-28/05-12. In April and May Ryan and I did "spring cleaning": cleaned carpets, framed prints, organized books, replaced lights, washed cupboards, and recycled as usual. This also including giving away books, clothes, and household items. This October Saturday we recycled, and cleaned and organized bathroom drawers, discarding unneeded items. Then we started walking.

Our Northgate neighborhood has a walk score of 75-- not as high as Jim's neighborhood. Nevertheless we were able to walk instead of drive to our errands: getting coffee (in personal cups), giving away household items (baskets, mugs, sweaters) at Value Village, recycling a mobile phone at Best Buy, and getting Ryan to work.

At the end of An Inconvenient Truth is "So here's what you can do personally to solve the climate crisis." Under "Get around on less" is "Reduce the number of miles you drive by walking, biking, carpooling or taking mass transit wherever possible." Under "Consume less, conserve more" are "Recycle" and "Carry your own refillable bottle for water and other beverages." I'm pleased to think this Saturday was healthy for my body (by exercising), my mind (by reducing clutter), and the environment (by driving less and recycling).