If I Were Starting All Over Again

startI’ll admit I kind of lucked into my situation. I started investing in stocks in early 2010 just as the financial crisis was ending and the broader economy started to roar back. The worst appeared to be behind us and gray skies were clearing. Obviously, in hindsight I didn’t know the stock market was about to begin an epic bull run that seen the Dow Jones Industrial Average index climb from 10,500 points in March 2010 to the 16,491.31 level we see today. I would have never thought we’d see 6,000 points added in such a short period of time, but that’s what happened.

To be honest, however, I wish we were still looking at Dow Jones 11,000 or so right now. Sure, my portfolio might not be sitting at a value of over $160,000 like it is today, but the value of my portfolio really has nothing to do with my ability to achieve financial independence. Rather, it’s the passive income it produces via the individual investments in high-quality companies that reward me as a loyal shareholder with rising dividend payments. And so a cheaper stock market would allow my limited capital to buy more shares, and thus more dividend income.

But such is life. The Dow Jones isn’t 11,000 points, and we have to work with the hand we’re dealt.

Now, while I’m not just starting out today, I’m still actively investing just like someone who is starting out for the very first time. So I’m in the trenches with you guys here. And while my earlier investments have done quite well in terms of capital gains, we don’t invest in the past; we invest current capital in stocks today based on anticipated future performance.

However, if I were doing it all over again, this is what I would do:

Focus On Frugality

I would first and foremost focus on savings. I’ve said before that the power of savings has a lot more to do with your likelihood of reaching financial independence than your investment performance. Frugality should be your best friend. The broader stock market’s general lack of value has nothing to do with your ability to save at least half of your net income, right? Right.

So remember that your portfolio is an engine. The gasoline is fresh capital. And this fresh capital doesn’t appear out of thin air. It’s attained via your savings. The larger the spread between your income and expenses, the better. And while some people would have you focus on making more money, I think it’s easier to focus on the expense side of the ledger. At least at first. How quickly could you go out and make an extra $500? That might require a part-time job or some serious overtime at work. However, cutting $500 out of your expenses would likely be fairly simple. Notice I said simple, not easy.

The key is to save at least half of your net income. If you’re netting $6,000 per month, this would probably be easy if you have any desire at all to save and put yourself in a position of power when it comes to claiming your time. However, netting only $2,000 per month might make this more difficult. Difficult, but not impossible.

When I first started this journey more than four years ago it wasn’t easy to take a hard look at what I was spending my money on and just start slashing expenses. But would you rather have cable television or financial freedom? A big house or 10 years of time? These are tough choices, but I’ll tell you what I did, because if I were starting out all over again I’d do it the same exact way.

The first thing I did was move to Florida from Michigan. I was jobless and broke, and found myself worth less as a 27 year-old man than I was as a baby. The move was meant to accomplish many different goals: Avoid state income tax so I could keep more of my money, live near wonderful beaches for free entertainment, get out of a cold, depressing climate that required expensive heating of housing during the winter, and hopefully make the idea of living without a car realistic due to living in a climate that was friendly to the idea of being car-free. I’m not saying you should move to another state, but it might be worthwhile to question whether the situation you currently find yourself in is optimal for accomplishing your goals.

Forget The Latte

Once I was in Florida and was gainfully employed, I focused on the Big Threehousing, transportation, and food. These three expense categories suck up most of Americans’ money. So before you start wondering if the gas station around the corner is $0.02 cheaper than the one you currently use, it might make sense to take a look at whether the place you live in is too big or too much money, the car you drive too new and expensive, and the food you’re eating too large in portions and/or cost.

So I first sold my car. Yeah, I was frightened to get around Southwest Florida without a ride. I mean this isn’t New York City where I have a subway at my disposal. But you know what was more frightening? Working at a car dealership until I was 70 years old. So I drove that puppy down to a local Carmax and sold it for a fair price. I had to pay a little money out of pocket to zero out the lien on it – yeah, I had a loan on a used, depreciating asset – but getting rid of that albatross set everything else in motion for me. I was spending about $450 or so per month back then for auto related expenses like the car payment, insurance, gas, and maintenance. That $450 savings meant I needed to save up $154,000 less factoring in a 3.5% portfolio yield. So I figured this one move meant I was more than $150k wealthier. You can argue the math, but the psychological benefit was priceless.

I then decided to start eating like a college kid. I remember when I was 20 years old and spending what seemed like peanuts on food. That’s probably because I was eating peanuts. But seriously, I was spending very little on food back then. How was that possible? Well, because the only time I ate at restaurants was when I was working at them. I ate a lot of sandwiches back then. Macaroni and cheese and I were also well acquainted. And I ate my fair share of cheap pizza. Look, I didn’t say I ate healthy. I did, however, eat cheaply. And so I revamped my entire food budget, and was able to actually get it all the way down to $114 for an entire month at one point. This was the result of a lot of PB&J and ramen noodles. I worked out religiously to counter the effects of a diet that could have been improved, and I don’t regret any of it. Although I’m eating slightly healthier these days, eating like a college student for short bursts can have a major impact on your belief of what’s possible. Not interested in sandwiches? You don’t have to be. Get a slow cooker and get skilled at batch cooking – chicken, rice, and a few vegetables go a long way on the cheap.

Then I moved. I convinced my girlfriend we were spending too much on rent (we were) as I evoked the power of the Rent Is Too Damn High political party, and we packed everything up and moved just down the road to a cheaper apartment that was located on the bus line. The apartment we were living in at the time was about two miles away from the closest bus stop and so I had to get up pretty early to ride my bike down to the stop, chain the bike up, and wait for the bus. No problem, but if we could save money and live right in front of the bus stop, why not? So we did. And we still currently live in that apartment. It’s two bedrooms (her young son lives with us) and we pay $925/month, of which I pay half. So I’m spending $462.50 in rent every month. Not too shabby. Could be improved, but could be a lot worse. However, I cringe when I read about people spending $2,000/month on a mortgage or $1,500 for rent. Look, a home is just some walls to protect you from the elements. I understand how people get attached to a home because you raise your kids there and you associate memories with it, but if the roof over your head is costing more than 15% of your net income before factoring in utilities you should probably consider moving.

I made other moves like cutting cable, but really the bulk of my ability to save more than half of my net income for the past four years was in reducing the costs of housing, transportation, and food as much as possible. And I said earlier, these were simple moves, but not easy. It’s simple to say move. However, it’s difficult to actually pack up and move somewhere else. It was simple to realize that my car was sucking up too much of my free cash flow which could be better used to invest in appreciating assets. However, it was much harder to actually sell it and get around town by bus or scooter. But as I asked recently, what’s the bigger sacrifice: living below your means or working for most of your life? Only you can answer that question.

Invest Early And Often

So now that I have my expenses under control, I have some free cash flow to invest. Now that I have capital to work with it’s time to get busy, right? Well, it’s tough right now due to the aforementioned expensive stock market. However, as I’ve talked about before you must realize that the stock market is just like any other store or market: there’s expensive and cheaply priced merchandise alike within the store. Leave the pricey stuff on the mannequins near the front door to others. You’ll want to circle the clearance rack in the back with the other value investors.

So what I’d want to do is first learn a system that works for me on how to analyze and value stocks. I’ve written about my system in the past, and that’s what I use. You may find something different works for you. The key is to stay consistent with it and be open to learning and changing as you grow as an investor. I’m certainly a different investor than I was four years ago, and I’m sure I’ll be different four years from now. For reading material, I highly recommend the resources I put together on my Getting Started page.

If I were starting all over again, I’d be investing at least once per month with as much capital as possible. I’ve tried in the past to invest at least $1,400 per month because my brokerage, Scottrade, charges $7.00 per trade. At $1,400 per purchase, I’m paying .5% in commissions, which I consider pretty reasonable. However, I’ve invested less when less was all I had. The key is to stay consistent, and invest as early and often as possible. Letting the stock market tell you when to invest is a sucker’s game. If I would have listened to the noise that told me a stock market crash was imminent, I would have stopped investing when the Dow Jones hit 14,000 – and we see how that would have treated me. Instead, I’ve racked up 70 Recent Buy articles – and that’s just since the blog went live in March 2011.

Portfolio Construction And Diversification

Since I’m just starting out with a portfolio worth $0, I’m going to be constructing it from the ground up. As such, I’m going to want to start diversifying with every new purchase. So my first month’s purchase might be in the energy sector; next month it might be a consumer stock. However, when just starting out this isn’t imperative. It’s not nearly as important to have a $10,000 portfolio widely diversified as it is a $100,000 portfolio. Diversification will come with time, so focus on value first. However, if I’m able to find value in multiple sectors then I’m going to diversify across these sectors as much as possible as I build the portfolio from the ground up.

Once I have a valuation system set up and I have capital to invest with, I’m going to want to have some type of entry criteria for my investments. After all, there are thousands of stocks that are available for investment in the stock market. But since I’m looking to attain financial independence via passive dividend income, right away I can eliminate any stocks that don’t pay a dividend. And since I’m going to need a respectable amount of dividend income off of my portfolio with which to live, I can also eliminate stocks that yield too little to have an effect on my passive income. My quantitative entry criteria if I were starting all over again would be the same as it was four years ago: I’m going to typically look for stocks that have a P/E ratio of less than 20, a yield of more than 2.5%, at least five years of dividend growth, a dividend growth rate higher than inflation by at least a point or two so that my purchasing power increases over time, and an acceptable level of leverage. I’ll make exceptions from time to time, especially if the growth rate makes up for a low yield, but I typically try to stay within the bounds I set for myself.

One thing I don’t regret looking back on my investments is not targeting higher-yield stocks more often. Typically speaking, higher yield equates to higher risk. And since I work incredibly hard for every dollar that hits my wallet I take risk quite seriously. I remember when my blog went live back in 2011 there were many people stopping by and questioning why I wasn’t investing in mREITs that were routinely yielding 15% or so back then. Well, I felt the payouts were unsustainable and the business structure complex. Of course, many of these stocks have collapsed as the payouts have been slashed.

So starting out all over again, I’m going to focus on fundamentals. I want to know how a company makes money. How will they continue to make money? Do customers enjoy their products and/or services? Is the dividend payout sustainable? Is the record of dividend growth respectable and likely to continue? What’s the debt load? If a company passes muster, then I want to look at the stock. Is the stock attractively valued? Is the yield acceptable? What’s the stock’s valuation today compared to what it typically is over the last five or so years? If the company looks good, the stock passes my entry criteria, and I have room for the investment in my portfolio based on diversification, then I’m going to buy the stock.

Attractively Priced Stocks Today

Scanning the stock market, there’s not a ton of value out there. However, if I were starting out all over again right now I can easily tell you where my capital is going to go. I’m going to list some high-quality stocks here that have attractive valuations against their historical norms and/or the broader market as a whole, a solid blended yield, acceptable debt levels, lengthy dividend growth records, strong likelihood of continued dividend growth, and wide diversification across industries. Basically, this is a mini portfolio that could easily get one started.

Aflac Incorporated (AFL) 

This supplemental life and health insurance company is one of my largest holdings. If I were starting all over again I’d look to build a position right now. The current P/E ratio is 9.53, which is lower than its five-year average of 11. The yield of 2.41% is attractive considering the 10-year dividend growth rate is 16.8%. Assuming a static P/E ratio, one’s total return would be the sum of the yield and the dividend growth rate. So even if Aflac grows its dividend at half its 10-year average going forward you’re looking at a total return of somewhere around 10%, which should be more than acceptable to most long-term investors. And 31 consecutive years of dividend growth gives me a lot of confidence that AFL will continue to raise their dividend.

Philip Morris International Inc. (PM)

The world’s largest publicly traded tobacco company should be a long-term winner. With a P/E ratio of 16.62 and an entry yield of 4.38%, you’re looking at historical norms in an expensive broader market. And I consider that a win. Philip Morris is one of my larger personal investments and that’s because I think for the next 5-10 years we should see dividend growth in the upper single-digits, which when combined with a yield above 4% you’re looking at 10% total returns or better. And although regulation and excise taxes are always a concern, PM is widely diversified between numerous countries across the world and as such is able to mitigate these effects.

American Realty Capital Properties Inc. (ARCP)

The world’s largest (notice a trend?) net lease real estate investment trust is currently offering investors a startling yield of 7.63% on shares at today’s price. I recently added to my position with this company because I can’t see how owning physical real estate and being able to rent it out at attractive rates isn’t an attractive proposition over the long haul. Furthermore, the trust doesn’t even need to raise the payout that much in order for one to attain an attractive total return. The yield alone, if able to be maintained, allows for a pretty solid investment. However, continued acquisitions means the growth may be much higher than inflation for the short term. ARCP has been aggressively increasing their payout over the last couple years, and management appears to be interested in rewarding shareholders with rising dividend income. And with a P/AFFO of 15.4, shares appear to be fairly cheap here.

Kinder Morgan Inc. (KMI)

One of my favorite energy companies, Kinder Morgan owns more than 80,000 miles of pipelines and 180 terminals. Like railroads, Kinder Morgan has a huge economic moat in its pipelines as these don’t get built overnight. Shares currently yield 5.02% and management is intent on growing the payout by at least 8% per year for the foreseeable future. Obviously, one doesn’t have to be a genius to see how this should be a pretty lucrative investment over the long haul as the U.S. continues to gain energy independence, build out its infrastructure, and natural gas gains traction and usage in applications across many industries.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)

I’m of the opinion that one can almost never go wrong investing with Johnson & Johnson as long as the stock isn’t grossly overvalued. And with a P/E ratio of 19.23 right now, I think one could argue that the healthcare giant’s stock is pretty close to fairly valued. And you could do worse than investing in this company at a fair price. A spectacular balance sheet, 52 years of dividend growth, and diversification across multiple products and countries means this is an excellent cornerstone stock. And as it’s currently my largest investment, I stand by my belief. An entry yield of 2.78% isn’t bad, and is backed by a 10-year dividend growth rate of 10.8%.

Conclusion

I’ve had some readers ask me what I would do and where I would invest if I were starting out all over again, and this is my answer. I’d do everything exactly the same way as I did it. I’d focus on living as frugally as possible so that my free cash flow was as large as possible. I’d then leverage the savings into the most attractively valued high-quality stocks I could find, while focusing on portfolio diversification and commission fees. I’d let the power of compounding work for me as I invest consistently, no matter what the stock market is doing. And, finally, I’d focus on fundamentals over stock prices, and I’d start with the five stocks I listed at the end.

Full Disclosure: Long AFL, PM, ARCP, KMI, and JNJ.

How about you? What would you do if you had to start all over again? 

Thanks for reading.

Photo Credit: sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Comments

  1. Grant says

    Hey Jason,
    Nice article. I think there’s a decent chance you can do well with writing and never go back to the employee grind. Good luck.

    PS Have you thought about how bad the economy would crash if everyone followed your frugality advice?

    • says

      Grant,

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post. :)

      And I really hope you’re right in regards to just writing. I really enjoy writing. It’s such a passion for me to write about investing, dividends, living below your means, achieving financial independence, living a better life, etc. I feel blessed to be able to do this right now!

      As far as your question goes, it’s all hypothetical. However, I think we’d just be living in a different economy. It would no longer be a capitalistic society where it’s all about growth and work, but instead you’d just have a lot less spending, less GDP growth, less opportunity in the stock market, but also a lot more time at home, and a lot more freedom, which is ultimately what we’re all after. With much less demand on the economy there would also be much less demand for work. It would be a really interesting change.

      Cheers!

      • says

        Well, technically we can still have a lot of growth even if humans on average worked 15 hours/week. If you work 15 hours a week today, you can likely afford the lifestyle of someone from the 1950s-1960s.

        Of course, if someone is truly passionate about what they do, they should be allowed to spend every waking second doing what they love. I would say it is the truly passionate people that work really hard ( but for which this is not seen as work) that truly drive progress..

        Anyway, I was actually thinking about the same thing about how would I do it again if I were starting all over. Very good stuff.

        Best Regards,

        Dividend Growth Investor

        • says

          DGI,

          Hey, appreciate you stopping by!

          And I’m with you: Working 15-20 hours per week, assuming a decent salary, will probably afford you a pretty decent lifestyle – akin to what Americans were used to in the 50s. And there’s nothing wrong with that. A small house, modest transportation, and an occasional night out. Much better than what billions of people around the world even today can afford in countries like India and China.

          And I agree with you on finding a passion and working hard. I’ve been working incredibly hard since quitting my traditional job. Writing, staying on top of emails, Twitter, Facebook, comments, reading, etc. Of course, this isn’t really “work” for me because I’m doing it all because I truly love it.

          Thanks for stopping by. Hope all is well with you!

          Best wishes.

  2. Louis Gunn says

    You are absolutely right Dividend mantra. If I was starting again I would go back to your philosophy which I started out with. For a long time I went down the “Growth Stock” and I can assure you it was the worst thing I haver done.
    I have now gone back to sustainable dividend investing in companies that are not overpriced and have a good return on equity.
    I do dabble in Ben Grahams NCAV method and that can be quite profit enhancing.

    Regards
    Louis Gunn

    • says

      Louis Gunn,

      Glad to hear you’ve come over from the dark side. :)

      There’s certainly more than one way to skin a cat, but I think the method I propose is just incredibly easy to understand and execute. It just takes a lot of the difficulty and uncertainty out of investing, and injects a lot of tangibility. I find that really reassuring and attractive.

      Take care!

  3. says

    “But you know what was more frightening? Working at a car dealership until I was 70 years old.”

    I think that working any job until you are 65-70 is the one reason everyone should seriously start saving for retirement. I couldn’t imagine being in my 30’s and thinking…. I have to continue to work for longer than I have been alive at this point. That is the biggest motivator for me in reaching financial independence as early as possible. I just can’t see having to do something that I wouldn’t choose to do if money were not involved for the next 30 years.

    • says

      Zee,

      I’m totally with you. The thought of working somewhere for four or five decades should scare the bejesus out of you, especially when that’s probably 75% or so of your lifespan. There’s just too much life to live to spend all your time at a workplace. The old quote about being on your deathbed and not wishing you had spent more time at the office always stays in my mind.

      I guess I’m just weird, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything for that long. There’s nothing in this life I enjoy doing enough to where I wouldn’t mind being in the position where I had to go in and do it for 40 or more hours per week for 30-40 years. I mean I love writing; I truly believe I found one of my life’s passions in it. However, if I had to go to an office at 7:00 a.m. and clock in and write for four hours, clock out and go to lunch when I’m told to, clock back in and write for another four hours and then clock out and go home…well, I wouldn’t enjoy writing too much anymore!

      Thanks for stopping by. I couldn’t agree more with what you’re saying!

      Cheers.

  4. says

    Inspiring as always, Jason.
    I think you identified the right areas to cut down on and did really well in selling your car, moving to a place with cheaper rent and cutting your food expenses as well.

    Great picks at the end as well – I own KMI and JNJ and JNJ is probably my fav stock as well…waiting for a better point to add to my position.

    regards
    R2R

    • says

      R2R,

      Thanks so much. Appreciate the support, as always. :)

      If I could pick just one company to invest in, it’s always a toss-up between KO and JNJ for me. It’s just impossible for me to imagine that these two companies aren’t bigger and more profitable 20 years from now.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Take care!

  5. says

    I have to say I 100% agree with you! We have been doing the same for years now living frugally and investing in our portfolio. We love Disney World and have entertained moving to Florida for the tax benefits as well as living close to Disney and saving money off tickets/travel/hotel.

    • says

      Ryan,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Great job there living below your means and investing that excess capital. That’s a tried-and-true way to build wealth. It’s not quick and easy, but it’ll eventually get you there. And the skills you learn on the way will stay with you for the rest of your life and ensure you’re able to keep your wealth once you have it.

      And I have nothing but good things to say about Florida. It’s just a wonderful state with great weather, beautiful scenery, wonderful beaches, no state income taxes, and an affordable cost of living for the most part. I’m sad to leave, to be honest with you.

      If you guys ever do move here I’m sure you’d love it. I’ve only been to the Orlando area a few times, but the economy is booming out there due in no small part to Disney.

      Cheers!

  6. Ravi says

    I think I’ve done a good job so far. Just like you said, the most important thing is increasing your free cash flow (reducing expenses and increasing your income, within reason).

    Personally, I wish I would have bought more real estate by the end of 2012. Today, I’d have even stronger cash flow which I would be reinvesting into equities (albeit at higher prices), but cash is king, because you can re-allocate it. Capital gains? Can’t really do much with that other than look at it and smile to yourself in the mirror.

    Property is not a replacement for equity investing, rather, a unique asset class because you can lever up to extract home equity (you can also borrow on margin, but it’s far more expensive to do so). RE has a good place in my portfolio, and right now I’m generating $500/mo in cash from it. I’m tempted to take out a $50k loan at <4%, but I prefer less stress and more simplicity in my finances.

    At work, I have to use financial engineering to extract more value out of everything the company does including using debt, credit lines, and investing, but it sure is complex. I prefer my life to be simpler.. and happy!

    • Ravi says

      I do hope we see a lower Dow in the mid-15s, but I believe the likely situation is to see a flat market (+/- 10%) and have stocks grow into their current valuations, while the Fed slowly raises rates over the next 3 years and some money moves out of equities and back into Fixed Income.

      Again, macro trend, but that doesn’t really affect the day-to-day investment decision.

      The only thing we can really do is come up with investable cash on a regular basis and allocate it to the highest and best use at that time.

      The rest is history..

      • says

        Ravi,

        “The only thing we can really do is come up with investable cash on a regular basis and allocate it to the highest and best use at that time.”

        You nailed it there. Every investment is a bet, and one can only allocate capital the best way they see fit at the time. Not every bet will work out, but when investing in high-quality companies the odds are on your side that it will work out more often than not – and work out well.

        Cheers!

    • says

      Ravi,

      I wish you the best of luck with real estate. I’m going to stick with REITs for my real estate exposure for now, but I’m not opposed to owning my own abode at some point. However, if I were to go that route I’d likely own a condo or something because I hate the idea of cutting grass, shoveling snow, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, fixing things when they break, dealing with leaks, etc.

      But I agree with you – it’s all about increasing your cash flow via creating a reasonable spread between income and expenses. The larger the spread, the better. Of course, one has to find a balance that works for them as well. No sense saving a bunch of money if you’re miserable. :)

      Best wishes!

  7. says

    Great article for me who is just starting out. And thanks for the mini-portfolio I already own J&J and PG. I will look into the others. I am looking foreword to the day I have 30+ stocks with rising dividends every year! Best wishes

    • says

      hallar84,

      Glad you enjoyed this! And you’re exactly the type of reader I was writing this for. I’ve had many people email me and question what I would do if I had to start all over again because the market’s been on such a run and everything. Of course, my answer is that I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d go right back to seeing how I can maximize my income while at the same time minimizing my expenses, then I’d take that excess free cash flow and buy the most attractively valued stocks I could find. Of course, there were more choices four years ago than today, but I think the companies I listed offer relatively attractive valuations on their common stock.

      And I can’t wait for the day you have 30+ stocks paying rising dividends as well. Just keep at it. It will come! :)

      Best regards.

    • says

      Asset-Grinder,

      First off, congrats to you. I stopped by your site and read your recent posts. Your net worth is out of this world, especially for your age. Phenomenal success!

      And thanks for the support. Glad you agree with the stocks picks. None of them are going to knock your socks off with growth or anything, but we don’t need home runs. Consistent singles and doubles will eventually allow you to round the bases and rack up the runs.

      Take care.

  8. says

    DM,

    Again a lovely read. As I only started my own journey into DGI a month ago, it feels good that two of my three purchases so far (KMI, AFL), are also featured in your “Begin Now! Portfolio”.
    The experiences of yourself and other bloggers alike really help me in my adventure, and hopefully will help me to avoid a lot of mistakes!

    Best and thanks again for the inspiration,

    DW

    • says

      DW,

      Great buys there with KMI and AFL. Both are attractively valued, in my opinion. Plus, you’re getting wide diversification with totally different industries, and the combined yield between the two is pretty robust.

      Thanks for the very kind words. Glad you found some inspiration in the article. :)

      Best wishes.

  9. Ville says

    Thanks again for an inspiring article! I and my wife are paying pretty much for our apartment, but as the interest rates are low, the apartment has a superb location (price goes up) and we´re 2/3 done, I think the process of owning your own house in 10 years is worth it. And we are basically paying for ourselves, not to some landlord.

    I´ve set up a system of buying stocks when their price dips below the 52-week median. I just added small slices of PG and WMT as the prices sank. Waiting for Aflac next ;-)

    Forget the latte? You know, I rarely drank soda BEFORE I bought KO stocks. Now I feel bad if I pass the counter without grabbing a can :-D

    Cheers!

    • says

      Ville,

      Housing is an interesting subject. I think people often just look at the financial side of the equation, and different markets will sway the argument one way or the other. However, it’s also a lifestyle question. If you’re raising a family and want a place to call “home”, then it’s probably going to make sense to buy a house with a yard and everything else. However, if you’re single and want a maintenance-free life, you’ll probably be much better off in a small apartment, and that’s before taking the costs into account.

      And that’s funny about KO! You know, I stopped drinking soda during the week for the most part quite a while ago. And at first I felt weird about not buying KO and PEP products as much because I’m an enthusiastic shareholder and consumer. However, I just switched to buying Propel flavored water and I still get to contribute to PEP’s bottom line while also enjoying water. I’m not a big water fan, but Black Cherry Propel is pretty strong.

      Best wishes.

  10. took2summit says

    Very interested 6 stocks you have there. I have a very targetted portfolio of only about 15 or so holdings coming close to 100k in value and I don’t intend to raise my number of holdings past 15. All 6 of those stocks are in my 15 holdings. Although I will mention I just sold PM and bought GIS. So I now only own 5 of the 6 you just mentioned.

    Also, I would venture to guess you can’t really get under 30% of net income to housing for where I live unless you make well over $100,000. However, I live in arguably the most expensive place in the planet and I have zero intentions of leaving. I personally make about 70k and live in a combination of the “cheapest while not being in the ghetto” place I could find, a room for $1000.

    • says

      took2summit,

      Actually, I think I only included five stocks at the end. Unless I’m missing one? But I think they’re all pretty attractive at today’s price. AFL might be the best value of all, but I’m already heavily allocated. I think PM has the greatest opportunities of all of them for huge growth, but regulation and excise taxes may damper those opportunities quite a bit.

      Yeah, there are probably a couple places here in the U.S. where it’s tough to get housing down significantly. However, it looks like you’re well under 30% of net income for housing using your $1k/month costs and $70k gross annual income. However, it’s all about personal choices. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies with expenses, but it sounds like you have things pretty under control there with your income level and housing costs – especially considering your area. I’m originally from the Midwest, and thankfully housing is pretty cheap there.

      Cheers!

  11. says

    DM,

    I like this article. Unfortunately due to the multiple booms and busts (dot com, real estate bubble, and two 50% corrections in the S&P 500) over the last 14 years, many people now are more apt to try and time the market than make disciplined, peroidic investments. You are right about bargains always existing. If a person doesn’t want or know how to hunt for bargains, then simply buy quality companies (KO, JNJ, T, PG) with wide intervals between the purchases. Buying PG in three month intervals during 2008-2009 would have made many people very happy today. It is definitely better to win or lose while on the playing field, than second guessing while on the sidelines.

    MDP

    • says

      MDP,

      I’m with you. If you’re unsure what to do, you could definitely do worse than just sticking to the highest-quality equity out there and just buying regularly. You’ll average in and if you’re buying and holding for the long haul you’ll still likely do much better than those trying to dance in and out.

      Appreciate the perspective!

      Best regards.

  12. Zach says

    Great Article! I’ve got a quick question about KMI. I’m looking to initiate a position over the summer and I’m curious why you like KMI and not KMR or KMP. Can you explain a little? I will be investing in a Roth IRA and I’ve done a ton of research, reading, and thinking about which I would like. Currently, I think KMR is the best option for me, because there are no UBIT risks. KMI could also be interesting for that reason, but the KMR yield is much higher than KMI, but you are required to automatically reinvest. Good choice for the accumulation stage?

    I’d love to hear your insight.

    -Zach

    • Ravi says

      I think KMR and KMP are Master LImited Partnerships (“MLPs”). KMI is the corporation that owns partnership shared of KMR/KMP, so it pays “dividends” rather than “distributions” (like the MLPs) which have somewhat more complicated tax reporting requirements K-1 forms.

      Correct me if I got those mixed up?

      I may have gotten the tickets switched around, but I’d probably go for the one that’s a corporation and pays a dividend (not the MLPs). Btw, I’m a licensed CPA and I don’t fully understand the MLP tax stuff (though I really just gave up and sold my MLPs earlier this year because I didn’t want to deal with the taxes again… after 2014 taxes next year, anyway).

      • Zach says

        This is correct. KMI is the corporation and yields about 5%. This distribution get qualified dividend status, so lets says a tax rate of about 20% (though it could be 10% or 15%, or 0% depending on the investor.).

        KMP is the limited partner of the MLP. Therefore, you get the MLP tax benefits and a cash distribution. These benefits are that normally all of the distribution (in KMP’s case, but not for all MLPs) is considered a return of capital and thus reduces your cost basis. Taxes are not paid upfront, but are essentially paid on the back-end when you sell the stock. The real kicker is that once your cost basis reaches zero, the distributions are taxed as ordinary income (OUCH!), not the qualified dividend rate the KMI receives.

        Enter KMR. KMR is (I’m fairly certain…) the general partner of the MLP and pays it’s distribution in stock, not cash. Therefore, there is no taxable event and your 7% yield grows tax free (even in a brokerage account). The rub is that you are getting stock, so you cannot reinvest these dividends elsewhere and when you get to the point of FI and want cash, you have to sell each time. This can be remedied by selling and investing the profits into KMI to get cash. (or possibly KMP to get a higher yield and upfront tax benefits. This can be a great estate planning strategy if you plan to die before cost basis reaches zero and your heirs get a step-up in basis.)

        The rub for me is that I’ll be most likely purchasing KMsomething via a Roth. So there are complex UBIT tax reasons why I don’t want to buy KMP. It’s a complicated subject, but my understanding that if you cross the $1000 UBIT threshold, it destroys the tax-advantaged nature of your entire Roth. Not good. Luckily, KMP doesn’t produce much UBIT, but I don’t want to risk it. Even if this is not the case, I don’t want to file a tax return for my Roth ever in the future or risk my broker randomly liquidating some of my position to pay the taxes (The IRS says the broker is the one responsible for the taxes). Therefore, it’s down to KMR and KMI. KMR is a higher yield, by close to 2.5%, but I have no choice but to reinvest. KMI is a 5% yield, but I can choose to reinvest or not. Both seem to grow in a similar fashion.

        Just curious if I missed anything that would make KMI better than KMR in a Roth IRA.

    • says

      Zach,

      Ravi included some important notes, but it sounds like you already understand the basic structure of MLPs and how KMI/KMP/KMR work.

      Per your question, I have chosen KMI because of the higher growth profile because of the general partner ownership. As KMP and EPB is able to grow their distributions, KMI will be able to grow even faster due to the IDR. Factoring in a 5% yield and 8% growth, you’re looking at long-term returns in the range of 13%, assuming a static valuation. So that’s pretty attractive. Keep in mind as well that Richard Kinder has almost all of his wealth in KMI – not KMP or KMR. That should tell you something.

      Best wishes!

  13. Greg says

    Thank-you for another informative article. Two themes I got: Generating capital and putting that capital to use. In the context of generating capital, frugality is one strategy in implementing lifestyle choices. Another is generating more income. That’s one of my summer projects. In regard to putting capital to use, changing my mindset has been the biggest challenge as I refocus on the security of dividend yield and the stability of dividend growth rather than on capital appreciation alone. I’m starting to think of myself as a holding company. I have to trim some positions that don’t fit my new philosophy to make room for more productive assets.

    BTW, I added to my position in ARCP this morning, placed KMI in the batter’s box, and started research on SO (to diversify my portfolio with a utility).

    • says

      Greg,

      Generating more excess capital via more income is always a great idea. I find it harder to immediately boost income than it is to immediately cut expenses. So you’ve got the barrier to entry there. However, once you’ve got expenses under control and you’re living fairly frugally, then the next logical step would be to increase income. If you can master both sides of the equation you’ll do very well. However, I’ve found it difficult to increase income dramatically without trading my time away to a job I greatly dislike. I guess to make a simple analogy I’d rather eat a PB&J sandwich and inspire people through my writing than eat filet mignon and work at high-paying job I hate. But if you can balance it out you’ll do very well.

      And glad to have you on board as a fellow shareholder in ARCP. We should do well over the long haul with this real estate juggernaut.

      Take care.

      • Zach says

        If you’re looking for a utility, I’d suggest PNY. Regional nat gas utility with a great management team. Like most utilities, the distribution growth is small, but it’s above average inflation. Also, they have a DRIP program where you can buy shares at a 5% discount. I was able to participate in this program via my broker (Roth IRA with Charles Schwab).

        Also, I’m curious about ARCP. I currently own O and think it is a superior company. Last time I looked, ARCP’s dividend was greater than it’s FFO (maybe it was AFFO) and that worries me a lot. What do you see in ARCP that you like, especially more than O.

        -Zach

        • says

          Zach,

          I wish I could like PNY, but the combined yield and DGR leaves a lot to be desired. If I’m looking at sub-4% dividend growth, I’d prefer my yield being closer to 5%. At that point, I’m looking at 9% or so total returns factoring in a static yield. With a 3.6% yield and a 3.6% DGR, you’re looking at 7% or so returns. Not bad, but you could also find something like that with a T where at least you’re getting the bigger check now to reinvest into opportunities with higher growth profiles.

          And I’m not sure what you’re looking at in regards to ARCP’s payout ratio. Management is guiding for AFFO of $1.13-$1.19 per share in 2014 on revenue of $1.433 billion. The dividend is currently $1.00 per share, so the payout ratio is comfortably covered by AFFO.

          As far as O vs. ARCP it’s basically a valuation/yield call. ARCP’s valuation is much more attractive right now, and hence the yield is substantially higher. However, I own both because I also appreciate O’s lengthy track record of excellence and management through various economic cycles. But you’re paying for that track record through the valuation. The thought is that as ARCP matures and slows down, it will build its own track record and you’ll eventually see the gap in valuations close.

          Take care!

  14. says

    Well put…and great recommendations. We currently hold KMI and ARCP in our portfolio and looking to add AFL in the near future as we believe it is attractively priced. I also agree with your thoughts on frugality. Although I admit we could still do better, just the consistent thought to be frugal certainly has worked for us.

    Wishing you continued success on your journey!

    AFFJ

    • says

      AFFJ,

      Thanks so much for the continued support! Much appreciated.

      And I hear you on being better in the frugality department. I also could use some improvement, and I’ve felt bogged down by healthcare costs and the expenses relating to having a car again. However, I’m anxious to get back to some extreme frugality in 2015 as my amortization for the car will be all done and my rent should be even less than it is now.

      But I agree with you that just being cognizant of costs, even if not extremely frugal, makes a big difference. Just questioning that $5 purchase here and that $10 purchase there adds up.

      Wishing you and your family continued success as well!!

      Cheers.

    • says

      SFL,

      Thanks for stopping by!

      I use Scottrade currently. They offer $7 trades, which I find pretty reasonable. I chose them because they have offices all over the U.S., the fees are reasonable, they’re well capitalized, and they have insurance above and beyond SIPC.

      If you’re interested in ever signing up, I have a link on my sidebar. Wink wink! ;)

      Take care!

  15. says

    DM,

    Great post and thanks for sharing what has brought you success over the last few years. Two stocks that I always passed on when they were just under $30 is SYY and CPB. I am starting to get interested in starting a position in Sysco still even though the dividend growth rate is not huge lately it should be pretty stable with the amount of years they have raised the dividend.

    I hear you on the high yield and high risk, but I think one can balance both and come out ahead even if experience a couple mistakes or cuts along the way.

    On another subject: Are you planning on attending any Tigers or Lions games when you are back home?

    • says

      SWAN,

      I’ve never looked at CPB personally, but I’m a shareholder in SYY. The dividend growth hasn’t been very impressive, especially with the relatively low yield. However, I continue to hold because it’s a small position and they dominate their industry. We’ll see if they turn it around at some point. If they continue with the super low dividend growth, however, I’ll probably have to sell. $0.01 dividend increases, if continued, will eventually drop below inflation.

      And I definitely plan on attending some games when I get back. I’ve never been to a Lions game because they’re so expensive. But the Tigers can be pretty affordable to watch. I’m a huge Red Wings fan, and nosebleed seats can be had on the cheap. I’m actually a big fan of the West Michigan teams like the Whitecaps and Griffins. It’s awesome to go to a Whitecaps game and be right on the field for like $10. Plus, they have fireworks after a lot of games. What’s not to like. :)

      Best wishes.

  16. says

    Great article… Most people love their “material possessions” to much. I know people who are flat broke. They have a big screen TV, a cell phone with an expensive plan, and a car that they have payments on. They are stressed out all the time as they have to go to work to pay for all this and do it day after day . I tell them they have to learn how to make more money besides working at a job.

    • says

      IP,

      That’s a shame that there are so many people out there like that. They’re basically signing themselves up for wage slavery without even knowing it. I’m glad I realized the terms of that invisible contract years ago and decided to opt out. :)

      The key is to get your money working for you so you don’t have to!

      Best regards.

  17. KeithX says

    With the exception of PM, the other stocks are all in my portfolio. I know that you selectively reinvest dividends, but my shares of KMI added over 5 shares this week. I don’t add the cost of the dividends when calculating the cost, so it effectively shows the price per share declining ever time the dividend reinvest. And the extra shares added another $9 per year in dividends. They all add up to happiness and independence.

    BTW, I found myself wondering about your lady friend. Will she be able to afford the rent when you leave? Sorry for the intrusion on your personal life, but you have laid bare your soul on these pages and I feel like a friend watching as you move forward.

    • says

      KeithX,

      Nice job there with KMI! More shares means more dividends means more shares means more dividends….help, I can’t stop!! :)

      And I appreciate you asking about the girlfriend. I know she’d appreciate it as well. We’ve talked quite a bit about that, and she’s okay without me. I’m obviously going to continue paying my half of rent for June and July even though I won’t be living here, and then I’m actually going to pay the entire month of August’s rent by myself. I offered to pay 100% of that month as a token of my appreciation for her, so that’ll give her a free month to get ready for full rent starting in September. And I’m going to recognize those charges in my June budget, so it’s going to be rough.

      I’ll be honest and admit I’m a bit worried about her, but she’s pretty frugal herself. I’d like to think some of my frugality rubbed off on her, but she’s always been pretty good at budgeting and what not. She just doesn’t share the vision of early retirement or financial independence. But she’s showed me some of her budgets for the future and she’s convinced she’ll be fine. We’re going to stay in touch and at the very least remain friends, so I’ll get a chance to check in with her from time to time to see how she’s doing. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she’ll be okay.

      Thanks for asking!

      Best wishes.

  18. says

    Hi DM,

    You did happen to start at a great time with your investments. I started in 2007 before any of weakness in the stock market became apparent. Believe me when 2009 rolled around I was seeing red on every purchase I had made. I can tell you that i did not sell one single share of any company in my portfolio. Much as you described I kept on investing every single month and did not stop. It took a while for the red to disappear but I am happy that I was able to average down and buy a lot more shares at deeply discounted prices. The point being… stick to your plan. Market up, market down… keep putting money in every month.

    • says

      DivHut,

      Great job staying on point even when the world seemed like it was ending. It’s easy to say you’ll continue to invest the same way when a massive correction/bear market hits, but it’s much different to actually live through it. I’m kind of looking forward to seeing how I’ll do because I know eventually I’ll have my shot. :)

      Great advice there though on sticking to the plan. It’s so important to stick with it through thick and thin. The market goes up and goes down, but if you pay less attention to the oscillation and more attention to accumulating equity stakes in real-life businesses you’ll do well over the long haul.

      Thanks for adding that! Appreciate the point of view from someone who’s lived and invested through it.

      Best regards.

  19. presone says

    I have been following you for some time, and this is my first time commenting. I like your blog a lot, and I have been a dividend growth investor for some time now, and I agree that it is not only a great strategy, but lots of fun.

    I live in NYC. Finding an apartment here for 1500 would be a steal! I choose to live further out, and spend more time commuting so my rent will be less, but even still in many large cities, 15% is a pipe dream, unless you want to have 100 roommates, or live in a roach house. What are your thoughts on living frugally in a major city?

    • Jim says

      Another good article, DM.

      Obviously, you’re in an appropriately reflective mood as you go through this big transition.

      I have a suggestion for a reflective piece. In the summer of 2011, if I remember correctly, you stopped the blog and maybe went through a challenging time with keeping up the motivation that got you where you are today.

      To your credit, of course, you eventually resumed course.

      I know I would be interested to hear about that time, what you went through, what your thinking was, etc. It might be a big help to people just starting out and a little discouraged at how slow the process can seem in early days, before there’s much snowballing.

      Keep up the good work!

      Jim

      • says

        Jim,

        That’s a great idea. I think that was suggested at another point as well, so maybe that’s something I should write about.

        I’ll definitely address that at some point here. It’d be great as well for me to reminisce about those days when I was a bit lost. Thankfully, I found my way back and have been completely committed ever since. :)

        Thanks for the idea! And look forward to the meet up!

        Take care.

    • says

      presone,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting for the first time! I hope it’s the first of many. :)

      As far as living in a big city, I would only do it if the income was commensurate with the expense load. I don’t know what you do or how much money you make, but if housing is that much I would expect to make a very healthy income. And living in NYC, I’d probably be looking into sharing a place with someone else. If you’re not taking advantage of something like shared resources then you’re losing out on a major point of efficiency of living there in the first place.

      However, I just found this nice room in midtown for $1,300:

      http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/roo/4480505105.html

      And If I’m able to make almost $60k as a service advisor for a car dealership in SW Florida, then I would think $100k/year should be pretty reasonable for NYC. With that type of income and living arrangement you’re at 15% for one of the most expensive and amazing cities in the world. Not bad!!

      And if you’re not able to make that type of income then what’s the point of living there over somewhere much cheaper?

      Cheers!

    • Ravi says

      Rent is a killer in NYC. Between rent, transportation (yes, the subway + cabs end up not being so cheap), pricey food, and high taxes, it’s a big buzzkill to the city of fun!

      I come into town a lot for work, and thank the Frugality Angels that I’m not paying for my own expenses. Between hotel/per diem/flights, it ends up being at least $2k/week. The dumb little shops are killer ($3 for a bottle of water, GTFO!).

      I may have to relocate there eventually, but calculated that I would need around a 10-15% raise to come close to breaking even.

      It’s a great place to explore opportunities, but VERY tough to get ahead financially, unless you are able to take advantage of the numerous opportunities there.

  20. says

    Great advice for those just starting out with investing. Both the companies listed and the lifestyle changes. Its good to have a reminder that these lifestyle sacrifices seem hard in the present but make big time positive changes for the rest of your life. Its a great way to build character too!

    • says

      Mike,

      That’s a great point there in regards to building character. Couldn’t agree more!

      I think it’s such a valuable experience to test yourself and find out what you’re capable of. I didn’t think I’d be able to get by without a car down here, until I was in the situation and had to make do. I think we’re all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for. The usual grind of getting up, showering, commuting to work, working, coming home, etc….that whole routine just weakens you in mind, body, and spirit. It’s so exciting and valuable to step outside those boundaries and see what you can actually do.

      Cheers!

  21. says

    DM,

    Great article again. If I could go back to February of 2009 when I started investing – I wish I could have sold every possession I had at the time and pumped it into the market. I was 20 then and didn’t have much $ at the time – but I definitely have made out well from those investments. With hindsight always being 20/20 – we do need to focus on the present and use our same analysis tools that helped us identify those undervalued investments then and do so now. I agree with you completely – keep finding the diamonds in the rough (rough being an overly valued market, for the most part, or.. is it?.. haha) and continue to invest.

    I just wrote a similar article breaking down monthly expenses on how much I would need to have invested to even cover those and it is alarming.. I need to do some research/analysis and negotiating to figure out ways to slim/lean myself down I feel.

    Also – I am looking at AFL, PFE, T (Downturn with directTV deal) and a few others. PG has come back a buck or two as of late as well – we have a few in common on our list. Lets keep at it DM, we all will find opportunities out there to increase our annual dividend income in a snowball type of way, to where it will all come together to cover our monthly expenses. Great article and hope you have a great week.

    -Lanny

    • says

      Lanny,

      Oh man, I wish I could go back and start even earlier. It’s funny, I remember looking at stocks back then and seeing Ford for under $2 and Bank of America for under $4 and thinking “This seems crazy. These businesses aren’t going out of business. I think I could make some serious money here.” Of course, I didn’t have much money to invest with, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I refrained from investing. But I wish I would have borrowed some money and went all-in back then. Even though Ford doesn’t pay a dividend I could have done very well with that one.

      Thanks for the support. And it’s all about consistency as you note. Picking up opportunities here and there and all of the sudden that snowball is turning into an avalanche. Keep up the great work!

      Best regards.

      • Ravi says

        F (and GM) does pay a dividend! 3.5%, and undervalued based on current P/E to projected 2015 EPS (most of automotive seems like a decent value now).

        Remember, when everyone else sells, you should consider buying!

        • says

          Ravi,

          Great catch there. I meant to say that it didn’t pay a dividend at the time, although I didn’t know a thing about dividend investing back then (or investing in general).

          I wish I could go back in time and land me that 10-bagger. :)

          Cheers.

  22. Spoonman says

    Thank you for putting together such an amazing post. That’s a very nice outline of good steps to follow, which newcomers can use to develop a plan.

    You and I have that other thing in common: we both started investing in 2010. That was definitely a good time to get started because we were able to lock in excellent Yield on Cost. I see the epic capital gains that we’ve had as another margin of safety.

    • says

      Spoonman,

      Glad you enjoyed it. :)

      And I’m with you. 2010 was indeed a good year to start in terms of much cheaper stocks. I wish it would have stayed that way for a little while, but we were like surfers catching this giant wave that keeps on rolling.

      And it definitely provides a margin of safety. Even if we get a 10% or 20% pullback from here we’ll still be far, far ahead of where we started.

      Glad to be on this journey with ya!

      Cheers.

  23. Jason says

    Mantra….just a quick recommendation. Now that you’ve reduced your earned income substantially, navigate over to Merrill Edge and research transferring your Scottrade. With 50k invested plus a Bank of America checking account, you can qualify for “platinum privelages” account which earns you 30 free trades per month. Say goodbye to $7.00 commissions! :-). I’m in the process of transferring my Sharebuilder and Computershare accounts. I also confirmed I can share the 30 trades per month with my kids custodial accounts to accumulate their dividend machine also.

    Cheers,

    Jason

    • says

      Jason,

      Thanks for the recommendation! I’ll have to look into that.

      Although, I ultimately want more than one brokerage account anyhow. So perhaps this might make sense as my second account. I was looking at Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, and Schwab because I like the availability of an office where I can pop in and actually talk to someone. I know everything is moving online, but I’m just a bit old-school like that.

      Thanks again. I’ll definitely take a look at this.

      Take care!

      • Jason says

        I can certainly appreciate your desire for live help. You’ll be happy to know that BOA branches have a Merrill Edge representative on site. I actually went in to sit down and chat before I made my move.

        Jason

  24. says

    Ah…JNJ. I read a lot of interviews with truly superior investors. One of the questions that is frequently asked is: if you could pick only one stock and then you had to hold it for 20 years without any possibility of selling it, what would it be? Interestingly enough, JNJ was far and away the answer to this question for the most successful investors. That was good enough for me to initiate a full position.

    • says

      S.B.,

      That’s fantastic info there. I actually wasn’t aware of that, but I think JNJ is just a blockbuster company and investment. I think if I had to pick only one company it’d be either KO or JNJ. I can’t see any situation where either one isn’t significantly larger and more profitable 20 years from now than they are today.

      Thanks for adding that. And I hope to one day get to your definition of a full position. :)

      Best regards.

  25. says

    Jason, I also wish I had known what the market would do in 2010! I would be rich today! Sometimes I dream of having a crystal ball or a newspaper with stock quotes from 10 years later like the sports almanac from “Back to the future” series. Oh that would be a gorgeous investing. Well, we must put dreaming aside and work hard to invest using a strategy which will perform as if you had such almanac. And I believe dividend investing is such strategy. I can see many of my stocks getting closer or over 50% capital gains and if I add dividends already received, many of the stocks are showing 100% gain (JNJ for example). it is a very nice and warming feeling to see it.

    I somewhat envy you your approach and I wish I knew that a lot earlier. I could get a lot farther ahead. Well, I am satisfied with what I have anyway.

    Nice account size man. I bet you it feels good to see getting closer to your dream.

    • says

      Martin,

      Thank you so much! It does feel great to feel closer than ever to my dream. And being able to just focus on writing for the time being is a wonderful preview of what full financial independence feels like. I’m in such a great spot right now, and I’m just so grateful for it. You never know what tomorrow will bring, but today is really wonderful. :)

      And don’t worry about comparing yourself to me. We all have different means, different goals, different situations and lifestyles, etc. I’ve seen investors younger than me with much, much more free capital because they were able to make much more money. But I feel really proud of what I’ve been able to do with my means, but I also don’t have a family to support. So my expenses have been relatively low throughout most of my life.

      Keep it up. Every day is an opportunity for progress. :)

      Cheers.

  26. Josh says

    Great post. It’s nice that you can look back regret-free on your journey from negative net worth to a true stock market player. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished as you enter this new chapter in life. I’m sure you will continue to succeed and inspire.

    • says

      Josh,

      Thank you so much. I’m definitely proud of what I’ve done thus far. Sure, I’ve made some mistakes and I probably could have done a little better in some areas. But, overall, I feel really, really good of what I’ve done. I wish I could muster the motivation to go back into the auto industry because I know I could continue accumulating assets at a prodigious rate, but I’m just so damn happy to not do it anymore and write instead. I’m in a really great place right now, and I don’t want to give it up. :)

      So I guess my asset accumulation will be a bit slower for now, but I’m still hopeful I can get to FI by 40. I’ve got eight years left, and I’m pretty confident about my chances.

      And I’m so glad you find inspiration here in what I’m doing and writing about. That’s exactly what this blog is all about. I wanted to add the word “inspiration” to the blog’s tagline, but it wouldn’t fit. :)

      Stay in touch!

      Best regards.

    • says

      PIM,

      Glad to be a fellow shareholder with you in PM, ARCP, and JNJ. All fine companies, and I think PM and JNJ in particular should do very, very well over the next 5-10 years. ARCP has a lot to prove, but so far has been very shareholder friendly.

      Take care!

  27. Zol says

    ARCP just went on sale this morning. I was a little hesitant to pull the trigger on it but when i saw -3.5% after having waffled it was clearly divine inspiration :)

    • says

      Zol,

      ARCP took a major dip. Looks like Mr. Market doesn’t like the cancellation of the spin-off and using that money for the purchase-leaseback on Red Lobster. I’m kind of inclined to agree, but we’ll see. I mean they’re giving up some high-quality retail for rather low-quality restaurants, but at least they’ve reduced risk in terms of the move to e-commerce. I just wish it would have been a chain that was financially healthier and showing better trends.

      Cheers.

      • Zol says

        I haven’t fully digested the R.L. deal yet to be perfectly honest. I’m hoping it doesnt throw off all my prior metrics. I jumped in somewhat blind on the dip today but had only deployed 50% of what i was planning before. I won’t be able to research for a few days and figured this would be a good test of my “fundamentals! strat”. They are definitively one of my riskier plays but it’s not the best market for value so i’m willing to roll the dice a bit.

        Wish saturday would roll around so i can see just how stupid i was being by jumping the gun (or finding a way to placate myself). Someday.

  28. says

    Hi,

    This is my first time commenting on your site. I did pull the trigger back in February, but have gone in two different directions. Currently, I am invested in BRKB (a whooping 50% of my portfolio) while investing the rest of the 40% in dividend yielding stocks (BP, WFC, PG, KMI, PFE).

    Do you have any comments on my BRK.B investment? I have don’t decently with it even though I don’t receive any dividends.

    P.S: I am only 24.

    Sincerely,
    acl212

    • Daniel says

      acl212, you can’t go wrong with BRK.B. This is the one non-dividend paying stock I feel comfortable holding for the long haul. Now if you want to be a pure Dividend Growth Investor, it doesn’t count, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth holding. BRK.B was my first major investment, and I’ll probably hold it for decades. That being said, it is unlikely I’ll be adding to the position, because I would rather be receiving dividends in the future instead of having to liquidate my assets if I need cash.

      • says

        In a certain way, to have BRK is to have a LOT of dividend paying companies in your account…
        It’s just not sustainable for anyone counting only on passive income, but still a nice stock to have.

        • Sensim says

          Eventually, I think BRK is likely to start paying dividends. Some years in the future when the great master is gone.

    • says

      acl212,

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment! I really appreciate it. And I think you’ll find a wonderful community here of like-minded investors and savers.

      As far as BRK.B goes, I think it’s a fantastic company. Regardless of their performance against the S&P 500 over the last five years (who cares?), it’s just a fantastic holding company. I mean you’ve got such a collection of great businesses there, and essentially I’m trying to build my own little mini Berkshire by buying up equity stakes in high-quality businesses so I can build a snowball of free cash flow which I can reinvest as I see fit.

      However, there’s a key difference between building your own mini Berkshire and owning Berkshire shares. And that difference is cash flow. See, I’m trying to cash flow my life with passive income so that I don’t have to go out and work for it. And whereas when you’re investing in BRK.B and letting Buffett receive and reinvest the cash, by investing in many of these same businesses yourself (WFC, PG, WMT, XOM, IBM, KO, etc.) you get your hands on that cash flow so that you don’t have to worry about selling shares or how your bills are going to be paid.

      So I think BRK is a wonderful business, and you’re getting access to the major common stock portfolio as well as all of the private business holdings. However, I’d rather build my own Berkshire and own equity in 50 or so companies that pay me rising dividends so that I can take that cash flow and do with it as I see fit. I’d rather control the cash flow myself. So right now I’m reinvesting that income, but one day (eight or so years from now) that cash will be funding my entire lifestyle.

      I hope that helps!

      Best wishes.

  29. says

    If I was starting all over again with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I should have gone all in in 09 instead of dripping in, not spent large periods of time away from my portfolio when travelling and the big one…..Stayed single, nothing hoovers up money like a wife and kids :)

    Love your attention to frugality, that was the major reason for our move to BG. house cost 13,000 USD and our cost of living is around 250USD per month all in, a little high I know, but we both smoke and drive a car.

    Cheers,

    Dave…

    • says

      travelswithmymotorbike,

      Wow! I had no idea Bulgaria was that cheap! I need to seriously look into going there once I’m FI. I knew it was cheap, but $250 per month? That makes Thailand look expensive by comparison. Good for you for finding a lifestyle that works for you and living so frugally. The cheaper you can live, the less passive income you need to claim your freedom, and therefore the faster you can be financially independent. I definitely envy you!

      And I hear you on the family aspect. Although I decided that I wasn’t interested in children years ago before I started down the path to FI, it certainly makes things a lot easier for me now.

      Best regards.

      • travelswithmymotorbike says

        Hi,

        Yep looked at Thailand too, been there a couple of times but the crime and corruption always put me off wanting to live there permanently despite the many attractions on offer :) Think they’ve just had yet another coup aswell, I’ve experienced three coups in my life, one in the Middle East and two in the Far East, they can be very scary places to be for a few weeks regardless on how it all pans out.

        Bulgaria is no paradise because of its recent history, but its stable and joined Europe in 2007, we do have corruption here but its the good kind and cheap!!

        • says

          travels,

          Yeah, the stuff going on in Thailand right now seems to happen with some regularity. While I’ve read stories of how it’s really more of an inconvenience than a threat, it seems like something I’d rather avoid.

          Do you perhaps have any information on how visas work in Bulgaria? I’ve never done any research on it myself, but would definitely be interested. I’m sure that’s a major aspect for your lifestyle consideration, no? Thailand makes the visa process a bit more difficult than probably necessary, but there’s also some countries out there that are even more of a hassle for long-term living.

          Appreciate the insight!

          Cheers.

  30. Aspenhawk says

    Excellent DM, I really enjoyed. This post is very good and useful. Thanks also for the excellent last new buy CLX. I really think this will be a very good stock to hold some years. Congrats !

    • says

      Aspenhawk,

      Hey, thanks for dropping by. So glad you enjoyed the post! :)

      And I think CLX is pretty solid here. The valuation could be more attractive, but that’s true of many stocks. However, the brands are strong and the yield is attractive. I think it’s a nice long-term play.

      Hope all is well on your side of the pond.

      Best regards.

  31. says

    I think you are right about seriously considering your food and home costs before seeking the cheapest gas. I think many people live in homes that are eating more of their money than they realize. Its important to have a space that is just the right size for your needs. If your space isn’t doing that, then it may be time to relocate.

    • says

      The Wallet Doctor,

      I couldn’t agree more. “Right sizing” your personal space is so important. Unfortunately, new homes are generally very large. So if you’re looking at buying a house you’re looking at houses built in the 50s or 60s (or earlier) and those come with their own set of issues. That’s why I rent. I can right size my space very easily and it doesn’t cost much to heat and cool our space. Our electricity bill is typically less than $80 and that covers all HVAC needs. I just couldn’t imagine trying to heat, cool, clean, maintain, and repair a 2,000 sq. foot house. That’s such a drain on you economically and psychologically.

      It’s so easy to live a fun life where you’re spending less on housing and transportation, and more on concerts, comedy clubs, backyard barbecues, etc. So when people say it’s not fun to live frugally, I say it is, but you just have to pick your battles. And for me housing is an easy victory. :)

      Cheers.

    • says

      Trader,

      I don’t often look at book value, because for many companies – especially those with a lot of goodwill – it’s irrelevant. However, I do compare ROE to industry peers and often look for that as a general measure of profitability and effective use of resources.

      Best regards!

  32. says

    DM,
    Haven’t been commenting as much, but definitely reading each and every article, and enjoying them thoroughly! Dividend Mantra is the gift that keeps giving: It keeps getting better and better! Keep up the amazing work, and congrats on your big life move and new adventure heading back to Michigan. Also, congrats on picking up CLX, that’s one of my personal favorites. Can’t go wrong with brands like Clorox, Glad, Brita, and Burt’s Bees.
    Best,
    Ian

    • says

      Ian,

      Hey, glad to see you. No problem on the commenting, I know you’re around. And I really appreciate all of yours support through the years. :)

      I’m with you on CLX. Fantastic brands, and a wonderful history of rewarding shareholders with rising income. I think I’ll look back on that purchase with pride 10 or 20 years from now. In the meantime, however, I’ll just reinvest the dividends and smile!

      Appreciate you stopping by. I hope all is well over there!

      Best wishes.

  33. Sensim says

    Mantra, what is your view on Wal-Mart? Is the company facing serious trouble due to consumers changing their shopping habits and Wal-Mart being a colossus on clay feet – or is it a temporary dip?

    • says

      Sensim,

      I actually ran into that article a couple days ago. Pretty scary stuff.

      My take on it is that people have to buy their stuff from somewhere. And more often than not, they’re going to go to the place that offers the best price with the best service, speed, stock, and convenience. Typically, WMT has been very good at all of this. Lately, they’ve had a tough time with the concerns over workers’ rights and pay, and the rise of e-commerce.

      However, I don’t think WMT is going away. They’re still a low-cost provider, and their stock for most of their stores is pretty excellent. They’ve got a supply chain and logistical circus that most retailers would kill for. And although e-commerce is a threat, it’s not a new threat. Amazon, eBay, and all the rest have been around for a long, long time. And WMT has continued to grow. Furthermore, their e-commerce was actually a bright spot with recently reported results, as it continues to grow at healthy rates. The site2store is a great program, and they’re currently investing in grocery delivery. So we’ll see.

      They pay their workers attractive wages for retail, but, unfortunately, retail in general pays very poorly. It’s not like these people can possibly think they’re going to go work at Walmart and make $15.00 an hour to stock shelves? Or maybe they do. I don’t know. At any rate, I do think minimum wage is going to rise here in the next couple years and the workers will see a boost and many of the concerns will go away. However, the one area I’m concerned about is service. It seems that customers see Walmart as having poor service, and that’s troubling. I’ve never personally experienced this, but it also goes back to the quality of the staff. You have workers that are kind of rising up now and think they’re being underpaid (when they’re not) and so that negativity might carry out into customers’ experience.

      I think, overall, they’re making solid moves. The expansion into the Neighborhood stores is a solid move, as that gives them attractive locations to compete against pharmacies and local markets. E-commerce investment appears to be working well. The international expansion has been surprisingly negative, however. I hope they can improve on that. Ultimately, people have to buy stuff from somewhere. WMT still typically offers the lowest prices, and they need to continue concentrating on that. They got away from that for a while, and it’s good to see them go back to the rollbacks and what not. As long as they focus on service I think they’ll be fine.

      Just my thoughts.

      Best wishes!

      • Sensim says

        Thanks for your input on WMT! I agree, an important focus now should be on service. I have to keep an open eye and monitor their progress. I read that mr Buffett at BRK recently bought large number of shares and I take that as a really good sign that he has a rock solid confidence in the company. He usually goes in big time when the price is right.

  34. says

    Ah so many stocks and so little money. How is gas Utility companies doing? just bought Laclede group (LG) so i hope their doing good. :)
    your timing were just right! i’m kinda envious. And you have a quite nice story to tell to your sisters kid and perhaps someday for your own.

    regards.

    • says

      investingidiot,

      I’ve never followed LG, to be honest. I can’t really give you much of an opinion on it, but I do hope it works out for you! :)

      My timing was pretty good, but could have been much better. I wish I would have started at DOW 8,000, but such is life. Overall, I still got in at a pretty good time. I just really wish the market wouldn’t have run up so much in the past few years. I’d love to have JNJ below $70, KO below $35, PM below $70, etc. Imagine the yields! :)

      And I can’t wait to see my little niece grow up. I can only hope I get to pass along some of my advice without her rolling her eyes at me. Haha!

      Cheers.

  35. says

    Hi Jason ,
    Nice article…thanks for granting the request. It is good to look back once in awhile and see what got you there. A perspective for new and maturing investors is good too considering your growing following! Thanks for sharing!

    I have been thinking a while about my next move. My portfolio is getting to the point where I am hesitant to add new companies to manage. On the other hand there is something psychologically challenging to add to current holdings like JNJ at 100 when we bought in at 60 before. I am not sure why that is?

    Anyhow I decided to go for the risky move and add more TGT. Without the recent troubles they should be at 80 now with solid div growth. I think these troubles should pass and we will look back at this as a big opportunity to back up the truck on a discount.

    Your thoughts?

    • says

      Chris,

      Glad you liked it! :)

      As far as TGT goes, I like it at this price. I don’t see how you lose at ~$55/share, assuming you’re in it for the long haul. In the short term, however, it could go anywhere. I’m actually not worried about the data breach. I think over time shoppers will forgive and forget, and I don’t see the costs crippling them anytime soon, but to be fair they’ve been vague on exactly how much this will ultimately cost. I’m comparing it to breaches in the past, like the one TJX went through a few years back; the costs weren’t that high. However, I’m more concerned about the botched expansion into Canada and larger retail trends. I think their expansion into grocery probably isn’t the greatest idea, and I hope they continue to invest more into e-commerce. However, again, I think at this price you’ll do well. I wish I would have personally invested less in the mid-$60s and more in the mid-$50s, but my timing was horrible. Can’t win them all, but luckily we don’t have to!

      Best regards.

  36. says

    Great piece of writing Jason! You started with my main concern – the all time highs we’re seeing, not only on US stocks, but other places too. As someone who’s trying to build a diverse portfolio, it’s really hard to put money into a stock (even if it’s a good and trusted distributer of dividend) when there’s this possibility that your investment might be worth 25% (or worse!) less in a month…

    Then again, I suppose there’s ALWAYS that chance, whether we are in a bull- or bearmarket. I imagine that an investor who’s been around the block a few times has an easier time of it, though.

    • says

      Mark,

      I can totally understand some hesitation in investing here right now, but if you’re just starting out here you’re not really risking a lot of capital. If you started three months ago at, say, $1,500/month and the market corrects next month you’re only looking at $4,500 or so at risk. So a 25% correction, although unlikely, would result in a paper loss of $1,125. Certainly tough to swallow, but you’d be making it up in less than a month. AND you’d have much more attractive equities to purchase with all your future capital. A win-win. :)

      I always keep perspective. Whenever I think of a market correction, I think of guys like Warren Buffett who’s seen corrections and paper losses of BILLIONS of dollars. If he doesn’t crack a sweat than why would I with my unrealized losses of just a few thousand?

      Cheers!

  37. says

    It’s interesting how all of us dividend investors look at the stock with the same eyes. I was doing my shortlist for this month and ended up buying JNJ even though I was aware it was no bargain, I really consider the current price to be around fair-value for a company of such quality. Makes me think that maybe if dividend investing gets really popular, some day it will be impossible to get stocks a good valuation for us long-term dividend growth investors.

    I also believe it is very risky to try to stay in cash waiting for a crash. Many people were doing it in 2010, even more in 2011 and 2012 and now they’ve lost gains on the magnitude of 40/50% while earning terrible yields in their bank accounts. Even if there is a 25% correction, they will still get a worse deal than they would back then and they lost a few years of dividends to reinvest. No one knows where the market will go, so might as well focus on companies’ fundamentals and reach a target price that you are willing to pay for such value. Then, if it satisfied your criteria then go for it, no matter what the market sentiment at the time.

    Best,
    Dividend Venture

    • says

      DividendVenture,

      I’m with you. Trying to time the market is just a sucker’s game. I remember people telling me I was crazy to keep investing throughout 2013 and most of this year with the market so elevated, but what else can one do? You can sit on cash, give up the opportunity to amass equity and passive income, completely lose the power of dividend reinvestment and compounding wealth, and watch your purchasing power decrease month after month. I’d rather invest in the most attractively valued businesses I can find and let time do the rest. :)

      Best regards.

  38. MK says

    Hi Dividend Mantra,

    I have been enjoying reading your blog for a while now. I’m around 30 years old and have been saving and investing about 40% portion of my income for the past 5 years with the aim of retiring sometime in my 40s.

    Something I have been wondering about for some time is why you don’t invest in non US-listed stocks?

    While the US stock market is pretty expensive right now, globally most stock markets are either reasonably valued or cheap – and some are very cheap!

    Although I’m not a dividend investor, I am sure it must be a lot easier to find attractive dividend stocks in most European stock markets (for example) than in the US, given their relative valuations.
    A $US 160,000 dividend stock portfolio can buy a lot more dividend income if invested outside the US.

    (Apologies if you answered this question already and I missed it).

    Cheers,
    MK

    • says

      MK,

      Thanks for stopping by! And you have a fantastic plan there. Being able to retire in your 40s would be phenomenal. It just requires patience, persistence, hard work, and consistency. Stick with it! Tremendous progress can be had in a short period of time, as I’m sure you’re well aware of. :)

      As far as non-U.S. stocks, I have plenty: BBL, BP, RDS.B, VOD, BNS, TD. I eventually hope to also invest in a few others like UL and NSRGY.

      However, I don’t think one necessarily needs to diversify much outside of the U.S. because many of our multinationals like JNJ, KO, PM, etc. already derive a significant portion of their revenue from sources outside the U.S., and this is a growing trend. As such, you’re already gaining international diversification by investing in many of these big blue chip companies. Valuation, however, is another story. If the big deals are elsewhere, I’m interested. And that’s why I invested in companies like BP, VOD, and RDS.B when I did – all were significantly cheaper than they are now.

      I hope this helps!

      Best wishes.

  39. says

    Awesome post, Jason! As I’ve mentioned, your approach to investing has really inspired me. Your transparency has pulled back the curtain from the otherwise intimidating world of investing. I’ve started my building my portfolio of securities with two of the staples you’ve mentioned here, KO and KMI. Cheers, friend! Best of luck with the big move!

    • says

      Addison,

      So happy to hear you’ve taken it upon yourself to take control of your financial future. You’re starting off with some really great companies there, especially KO. And thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you’ve found my approach easy to understand. I hope to make investing much more accessible to people, and hopefully the joy of passive income will spread. :)

      Best regards.

  40. says

    As someone who is starting out on dividend stocks in my own country, I feel so envious reading this! Having access to a bigger stock market makes it a whole lot easier!

    • says

      Kristi,

      I’m not personally familiar with the Estonian stock market, but you may have access to foreign stocks through your broker. You may want to investigate this with a local expert to get your options on investing in foreign companies. And keep in mind that every system has its own inherent advantages and disadvantages, and our capitalistic society is certainly no different! In fact, it’s because of the stress and constant work load that many of us experience that we’re seeking financial independence in the first place. If I lived in a society with a much lighter work load and a better work/life balance I might not even be doing what I’m doing.

      Best wishes!

  41. Dividend Supporter says

    Hi Jason,

    I will first start by saying: Congratulations!
    You live your life the way you want it as much as possible. You inspire others of doing the same, but without pushing them in your direction of thinking.
    Fantastic and I hope you will reach your goal of FI!

    I’m an 25-year old youngman living in Belgium and like to be financial independent. Why? Not because I don’t love my job. I just want to be able to decide what to do every day without thinking “I have to go to work or else I don’t get a paycheck with the consequence of not being able to pay my loan, take care of my family and myself an so on…”. It’s a dream of just getting up in the morning, take a good breakfast, visit my grandparents, do a bit of sports, then in the afternoon do so voluntary work for people who really need it and in the evening spend time with my own family. In general, I don’t think I would be boring: it would set up some projects and try to realise them.

    But enough said about that, I’m writing you because I have a dilemma deciding what to do and I think you can help. In life, you have to think positive but also be realistic. Don’t ask my why, but even after following your blog Dividend Mantra and the blog of DGI for some time, there is still something holding me back of becoming a dividend investor. I think I just need some professional advice from you guys on the following problems to get that push to start dividend investing.
    To explain these problems in an organised way, I’m going to work with bullet points.

    1) Problem 1: Taxation:
    If you live in the US, I can image you have to pay taxes. As a foreign investor in Belgium, you are “blessed” to pay double taxes. In total you pay 40% taxes on your dividends.
    For example: you get 100 EUR paid on dividends, you hold 60 EUR in your hand because you first pay taxes in the US and then in Belgium ((100 EUR – 15% tax US) – 25% tax Belgium = 60 EUR).
    My question: How do you deal with that? Is there a solution to avoid this double taxation? I don’t have to tell you that it takes a lot more effort to get to FI if you have to pay double taxes. I can’t image that other foreigners outside the US don’t have the same problem of double taxation.
    – Moving to another country is difficult for me: my family lives here and I work here.
    – Setting up a kind of ‘dividendcompany’ isn’t really an option if you ask me, because a company also pays taxes on dividends.
    – The only solution I saw till now, was looking for somebody in the US who invest in dividends stocks for you and you make a deal where he gets 5% of the dividends. But I don’t like that option too much, because I like to manage my own money and portfolio.

    2) Problem 2: Manage your portfolio:
    If I decide to start investing in dividend stocks, I would like to have a good view in what I’m invested in and what the changes are. I already created an exceldocument, but I was wondering if there aren’t any free programs which upload some data automatically? For example: you buy KO, and want to follow P/E, shareprice, EPC, yield, dividend growth, …
    Can you also make your own list of data you want to follow?
    I already had a look to several of your suggestions you made on your website, but haven’t exactly found what I was looking for. Maybe you know better where I can find it?
    Your freedom fund portfolio, is that also automatically adapted (and if so by which software) or do you tap manually after calculating the data?

    3) Problem 3: Reaching your number:
    My number would probably be 2.500 EUR a month which I would like to reach on the age of 45 (so 20 years from now). So when I put this in a calculation and if I’m not mistaken, then it would seem like the following: my portfolio needs a value of 1.500.000 EUR with average dividend of 3,5 % to get me (after taxation) a net 2.625 EUR a month.
    It seems gigantic and I must admit: it scares me. How I am going to get 1.500.000 EUR together? I’m going to leave my parents home some day in the future and hopefully have a wife and kids. They also need education, food, drinks,… which will cost me some money. I will be glad to pay for it, because I don’t wanna be a dad when I have the age of a grandfather. Thinking realistic, this means I can invest more now than in 5 years from now. But I’m kind of a disappointed that even if I want to reach FI, it seems so far away (and maybe to far away?).

    4) Problem 4: Online income:
    I already started looking at my expenses and tracking what I’m spending my income on. So on that point, I’m good 
    On the income side, I’m hard looking to get my income up so FI may come sooner that it seems know. I admire you that you have such a great online income.
    Any hints to make an online income?

    I call it ‘problems’ but hey, problems are to be solved, isn’t it? I hope you don’t mind that I ask you so much questions.
    Again, congratulations with the good work and hope you will still be writing for a very long time!

    Greetings,

    DS

    • says

      DS,

      I’ll do my best with your questions. However, keep in mind that I’m not familiar with your stock market, taxation, or economy there in Belgium. But from what I do know that general region of Europe is known for higher quality of life due to a better work/life balance because you’re not encouraged to work 50+ hours per week like you’ll find is so common here in America. I also understand nationalized healthcare is common in that region, which could reduce the amount of money one would need in FI fairly significantly. If I had a much better work/life balance (like I certainly do now) the rush to FI isn’t quite as necessary. I simply adapt to my situation and take advantage of what I can…a “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude. However, if I were to live in an economy that allowed for a lot more personal growth and latitude, then perhaps I wouldn’t be so anxious for freedom. I hope that makes sense.

      Anyway…

      1. I’m not familiar enough with your situation to really comment. However, I would try to investigate when the double taxation occurs. If it’s only U.S. stocks I would then try to focus on local companies and perhaps other European companies. If it’s all foreign stocks then at that point I’d grab what I could in Belgium operations and also perhaps focus more on funds. If capital gains are taxed more favorably for you there in Belgium you may have to focus a bit more attention there. Or I would look to other passive income sources. What about real estate? What about setting up a business? I would try to put my eggs in as many baskets as possible, and think outside the box. Take advantage of your situation.

      2. I use Seeking Alpha’s tools to send me alerts anytime a company has news, declares a dividend, etc. (seekingalpha.com). As far as my spreadsheet goes, I input it manually. And I like it that way because it gives me plenty of time to freshly review what equities are performing at what levels and exactly what’s happening with my portfolio. Putting everything on autopilot is a bad idea, in my view. I like to take the time to really look at my stocks.

      3. That’s a big number. You’ll either have to make a large income, or lower your expenses enough to create a spread between the two large enough to consistently fund your portfolio with plenty of free capital. Consider, also, that maybe not all of your income has to be passive. Again, think outside the box. Maybe you can shoot for 50% of that number and work part-time. That could create a very comfortable work/life balance. In the end, it’s all about happiness. But I would think long and hard about your priorities in life and focus on those. Is it FI or is it building a family with a big house and everything else? It’s really up to you to manage your lifestyle appropriately and focus on what will bring you the most joy.

      4. I’ve been incredibly lucky with the online income. If you had told me three years ago that I would be earning this type of income from writing I would have told you that you were crazy. I don’t really have any tips or tricks here. I simply write from my heart and people enjoy what I have to say. I’m genuinely here to help, inspire, share, and motivate. Almost all of my online income is from passive ads on my site here, so I’m not really selling anyone anything. But I understand a lot of people make money online from building businesses in a variety of ways. Affiliate marketing and drop shipping are just a couple of ways I could think of off the top of my head. From what I understand of it, automation is the way to go. And, obviously, I’m not automating anything so I’m not really a good example here.

      I hope this advice helps. But you’ll need to look within yourself. Instead of seeing problems, look at solutions. Prioritize. Try to envision what you want your life to look like 10 years from now and reverse engineer that dream. That’s what I did.

      Best wishes!

      • Dividend Supporter says

        Jason,

        Thanks for your reaction!
        It makes sense, but don’t forget that even when you don’t have to work 50 hours a week (but 40 for example), then still FI can be a reasonable dream.
        The feeling of being able to just get up in the morning and spent time with kids and family without having an obligation to go to work, is priceless. As you said, time isn’t coming back, it’s just ticking away so you better use it in a good way.

        1. Good point, diversification is absolutely necessary. I’m already invested in a start-up, I want to buy a little house to live in, I own some shares,…
        More real estate is a possibility, but the government is thinking about also ask taxes on the rent you get.
        I’ll look a bit further what the possibilities are, but the thing I like about dividend stocks is the compounding element (“snowball-effect”). The dividends you get grow normally year after year. Other investments do not have such effect.

        2. I’ll dig a bit deeper in Seeking Alpha, thanks! No you are right, autopilot is a bad idea. You pay less attention and that’s definitely not the purpose.

        3. I get your point, maybe that number is a bit to ambitious. Half of it and working part-time would already be fantastic. Life isn’t all about earning money, it’s about feeling good and enjoying yourself.

        4. Great for you! It’s super to do something you like and even gain something with it on the side. I’ll see what is possible for me. You got nothing to loose, only to win and if you never try, you’ll never win.

        Thanks for your reaction Jason and take care!

        Best regards,

        DS

  42. Ken says

    Just recently I realized that I’ve been doing some things wrong my entire adult life. All my savings have been in a crappy 0.9% interest bearing savings account, and my only tax-deferred account I’ve only been able to put 5k a year into since I’m self-employed and don’t have access to a 401k. And at 0.9% I’ll be working forever. I’m 32 now and I’d like to retire some time in my 40s. I do have a bunch of cash to invest right now, is this possible? Luckily my IRA is in a Merril Edge account so $7 trades are quick and easy, but I don’t own any stock anywhere. Can I email you so we can chat?

    • says

      Ken,

      I responded to your email. I hope I helped. :)

      I would recommend taking your time with investing a bunch of cash, however. I know there’s been studies on this and they recommend allocating your assets as you want them right away, but I like to invest capital a bit at a time. Get comfortable with stocks, invest in solid businesses. And get used to things. Investing all your cash in the market just to watch it tank could cause you to sell out right away and lose capital. Don’t let Mr. Market bully you like that. Just take your time, invest where you feel comfortable, and dip your toes in. You’ll start to see the dividend snowball build, and you’ll be reinvesting dividend income after a few months. It’ll take time, as this is not a get-rich-quick strategy. But you will eventually become wealthy. Formulate a regular investment plan and stick to your goals.

      Good luck!!

      Cheers.

  43. says

    Having just turned 27 myself; It’s interesting to see how far you’ve progressed since that age and how much you’ve achieved. Gives me real hope that I can achieve similar things also!

    • says

      ERG,

      I’m glad you found some inspiration here! :)

      And if I can do it, anyone can. I came into this with no prior knowledge, no mentor, and no real advantage over anyone else. I was just extremely motivated. I’m sometimes willing to do things others aren’t. Riding the bus and eating ramen noodles are activities others would prefer to avoid. I viewed it as taking back my freedom. And that’s exactly what I did.

      Best of luck!!

      Cheers.

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