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Following my dad's simple money advice helped me build a 6-figure business after walking away from a toxic job

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Her dad always told her to figure out your ideal lifestyle and work backwards from there.

  • As a kid, my dad told me to think of my ideal lifestyle then work backwards to find a job I want.
  • I thought I had my ideal life with a fast-paced corporate job, but it became toxic.
  • I dreamed up an ideal life – with more time for family – then quit my job and started a business.
  • Read more stories from Personal Finance Insider.

My dad, a fourth-generation Kansas rancher, shared some simple money tips with me as a kid that I've relied on again and again over the years. One tip was to figure out what kind of lifestyle you want and work backwards from there to find a job you actually want to to do.

For several years after graduate school, I worked at a breakneck speed, hoping my corporate job and salary would afford the lifestyle I wanted. The work was really fast-paced and fun for a while. I worked hard, put many aspects of my own life on hold, and really dedicated the majority of my time and energy to growing the business and my role in it.

Unwittingly, I chose a job I thought would get me the farthest the fastest, thinking I could get to a finish line that would allow me to then live my ideal lifestyle. My ideal lifestyle included resources and time to spend with family and friends, as well as time to travel, read, and write.

The reality of my lifestyle was far from what I'd hoped. The hours I put in at work didn't allow for much of a family life, let alone any personal travel or leisure reading. When I traveled for work, I never even got to see the cities outside of hotels, meeting rooms, and taxis. To be honest, it was a big bummer.

When the job situation became toxic and opportunities came crashing down because of some clashing egos, I told myself I'd never again be in a situation where someone else had so much power over my time. I had to do what my dad had always advised – (re)define my lifestyle and work backwards. I did, and it helped me walk away from a toxic job and build a six-figure business.

First, I decided what's important

For me, quality time with my husband and daughter (a toddler at the time) was at the top of the list of what was important. Commuting an hour each way every day for work (plus lots of time tethered to my iPhone when not at the office) was not working for me anymore.

After much introspection, I realized I wanted to work with small business owners to identify their own ideal lifestyles and help them work backwards, like my dad had taught me. I created a marketing strategy agency that, at the core, helps entrepreneurs define the intent for their life and business, then I help them build infrastructure and attract clients.

Starting this small business allowed me to merge my desire for meaningful strategy with my expertise in online marketing. More importantly, it now allows me to work from a home office and be home when my kids walk home from school. Since I don't have a commute anymore, I've reclaimed two hours every single day. And I've built systems and repeatable processes for my team and our clients so that I'm not tethered to my iPhone all the time.



I surrounded myself with the right people

When starting my business, I looked for people who had similar values and wanted to accomplish similar things. When I met like-minded people with skill sets I knew I'd need in the future, I tucked their information away until I could hire them – graphic designers, web developers, content writers, even a bookkeeper. Years later, some of those first hires still work with me on a regular basis.

I remain flexible

Entrepreneurs in it for the long haul know that flexibility is crucial for sustainability. I prefer a flexible business model that centers around my own skill sets and what I want to spend my time doing – specifically, strategy work. Then, I hire independent contractors to help me implement all the pieces.

This flexible business model gives me freedom to pursue new projects and interests as opportunities arise. Our core business model remains the same, but I can add and subtract services when it fits what I want to work on. It also allows me to do a hard pivot when necessary, like when the 2020 pandemic hit.

Defining my ideal lifestyle has evolved over the years and will probably continue to evolve as the world – and my life and priorities in it – changes. But at least I now know how to evolve with it.

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Personal Finance

Retiring Early: 4 Principles of the FIRE Movement

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There comes a time in your life when you feel that you are ready to quit working and enjoy the fruits of your labor with a well-earned retirement.

If you have an entrepreneurial streak or simply want to generate as much income as possible, as quickly as possible, you will probably be a regular visitor to sites like journeytobillions for inspiration.

It may be that one of those ideas leads you to unlock the money you need to be able to retire early. You might also want to consider the principles of the FIRE movement, which is an extreme saving and investment movement that is designed to achieve a goal of Financial Independence and to Retire Early.

Here is a look at the key principles behind the FIRE movement.

Live for tomorrow

If you truly want to retire as early as possible you are going to have to make short-term sacrifices and adjustments to the way you live in order to achieve that goal.

A key element of the FIRE movement revolves around your ability to be financially disciplined with your money.

This means living as frugally as you possibly can so that you put aside as much of your income into savings and investments as possible. The target figure is to save 70% of your income and avoid debt as much as possible, or at least pay off your mortgage as a matter of priority.

The magic number that makes early retirement a reality is to be able to accumulate a net worth that is a multiple of at least 25 times your current annual spending.

A typical person who aspires to the FIRE principles manages to put aside somewhere between 25% and 50% of their monthly income.

Put your money to work

Simply putting your money into a savings account won’t get you to the finishing line of early retirement and it will probably mean that your wealth doesn’t keep pace with inflation either.

You need to grow your savings by investing in the stock market and taking calculated risks with your capital.

A tracker fund that follows the performance of the stock market would be a typical investment strategy, but it always pays to get professional guidance if you want to try and get the best returns.

Home ownership

You are never truly free to retire until you have paid off the mortgage and own a property outright so that you don’t have to make regular monthly payments anymore.

A key FIRE principle is to clear the mortgage as early as possible, even if that involves directing some of your savings to overpay the mortgage to clear it quicker.

Boost your income

It goes without saying that the more money you can earn each year the quicker you will be able to build up the sort of financial wealth and independence that will allow you to retire early.

Look at potential additional income streams such as so-called side hustles, which are extra jobs you do alongside your regular work.

Taking on part-time work or maybe starting your own business that can be run while you keep your full-time job can all help you get where you want to be at a faster rate.

Looking at your current financial situation, could FIRE be your route to early retirement?

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Personal Finance

Why you should buy life and disability insurance at the same time

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Disability and life insurance protects your paycheck and lifestyle.

Personal Finance Insider writes about products, strategies, and tips to help you make smart decisions with your money. We may receive a small commission from our partners, like American Express, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

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You work hard to provide a comfortable lifestyle for yourself and your family. But if an injury prevents you from working, will you be able to maintain your lifestyle?

"If you don't make it home and someone relies on your income to live, you need life insurance," Mark Williams, CEO of Brokers International, told Insider.

Life insurance paired with disability insurance helps manage the risk of disability, illness, or death.

Insurance supports your plans and the unexpected

What are your goals for your career, family, and other individuals you are responsible for – even if you don't have kids?

"At the end of day, life insurance is risk management" to deal with "premature death, loss of income due to illness, or disability," according to Silvia Tergas, a financial planner with Prudential.

Tergas recommends using a small percentage of your income toward disability insurance and life insurance to insure your No. 1 asset: the ability to generate income in future.

What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a contract between you and the life insurance company. You pay premiums (monthly or annually) for a payout that your living relatives will receive, known as the death benefit. Should you die, the insurance company pays the death benefit to your chosen beneficiary.

There are two main types of life insurance policies to choose from: permanent life and term life. There are different types of term life and permanent life insurance products.

Whether you choose permanent life insurance or term life insurance, you will need to go through the underwriting process. This process is how the insurance company determines your insurability – deciding how much of a risk you are and how much of a death benefit you qualify for.

Your life insurance needs change as you age, and you'll need to consider children, marriage, divorce, retirement, and caring for aging parents. The best life insurance policy for you depends on your budget as well as your financial goals.

To maximize the benefits of life insurance, it's wise to include a financial advisor, accountant, and estates attorney in your decision-making process to ensure you have proper coverage that adapts as your life changes.

Term life insurance Permanent life insurance
  • Ends after a specified time frame
  • Includes death benefit
  • More affordable
  • Never expires
  • Includes a death benefit
  • Cash value that can be used during your lifetime
  • More expensive than term life in the early years of the policy

What is disability insurance?

To figure out whether you need disability insurance, the question to consider is: If you become ill or injured, how will you earn income to pay your bills?

Disability insurance is like insurance for your paycheck if you are unable to work. Just like you have homeowners insurance for your home and car insurance for your car, you should have disability insurance to protect your income.

When you are injured or ill and unable to work, disability insurance provides you with a percentage of your salary. There are two types: short-term disability and long-term disability.

Although many people probably have short-term disability through their employer, long-term disability insurance is the one that most people need and do not have.

For most people considering disability insurance, the focus is on long-term disability and how to decide between an "any-occupation" policy versus an "own-occupation" policy. You can use online calculators to determine how much disability insurance you need.

Short-term disability Long-term disability
  • Lasts for 13-26 weeks
  • Replaces 40%-70% of your base income
  • Short waiting period ("elimination period") before receiving benefits
  • Plans vary, typically from five years to retirement age
  • Replaces 40%-60% of base income
  • For most carriers, 90 days is the typical waiting period, but it can be shorter

Data from Guardian Life Insurance

Why get life and disability insurance at the same time?

According to Guardian Life, more than one in four of today's 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year because of a disabling condition before they retire. Guardian Life also notes that illness causes 90% of disabilities, while injuries accounts for the other 10%.

Life insurance protects your family in the event of your death. Disability insurance protects your income in case you become injured and unable to work. The worst feeling is thinking you have coverage, only to find out you don't or it isn't enough.

Life and disability insurance require going through the underwriting process, which can take four to six weeks. Underwriting is when the insurance company collects information about your health, job, income, finances, and other personal information to determine how much they will insure you and what your premium will be. It may require a medical exam, which includes the collection of a blood and urine sample.

Some insurance companies offer a disability rider that you can add on to your life insurance policy instead of having two separate policies. However, it may be more cost efficient to have separate policies.

Talk to your insurance specialist or financial advisor to find out what options work best for your financial situation and goals.

Related Content Module: More on Life Insurance

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A financial planner shares 3 pieces of money advice clients never want to hear

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Financial planner Don Grant.

  • After 20 years in the business, financial planner Don Grant says clients hate to hear three things.
  • First, you're not saving enough, either for retirement or your kid's education.
  • Also, you can't afford that much house, and you need to take on more investment risk.
  • Vanguard Personal Advisor Services

Don Grant has been a financial planner for nearly 20 years, which means for nearly two decades he's been having tough talks with people about their money.

"When I first meet with clients, I say, I'm often going to tell you things that you may not want to hear but I have to tell you," said Grant, who serves as an ambassador for the CFP Board.

Grant shared with Insider the top three pieces of money advice his clients never want to hear.

1. You're not saving enough

Grant works with clients at various life stages, and those nearing retirement age aren't happy to hear that they can't leave their jobs as soon as they want.

"I've had to bend a couple of people back to work for a couple of years," said Grant, who works as an investment advisor with Fortis Advisors in Wichita, Kansas. "When you're not putting away enough, we're not going to hit our targets, which means you could potentially outlive your savings."

Your financial planner can help you examine your income and assets as well as what you'll need after retirement to determine how much you should be saving and investing to maintain your lifestyle long after you've put in your papers.

If you have children, you also need to save money for their education – no matter how brilliant you think your kids are, said Grant (but not at the cost of saving enough for your own retirement).

"Susie is a great tennis player, but you still need to save for college," Grant said. "I have had a number of clients who have kids who are extremely talented athletes or great at academics and they think we're just going to get by on scholarships."

Think again – and start a 529 plan. Grant recommends saving about 60% of what you think your child's college tuition will be.



2. You need to take on more risk

You may be tempted to cash out your investments when the markets are down, but don't.

"Essentially, one out of every four years the markets are down, but the average recovery from a stock market crash is about 400 days," said Grant.

So, stay the course.

"We've got to trust the history of the stock market and other markets we're invested in," Grant said. And trust that your advisor has helped you invest wisely so you won't end up broke.

"They need to stay invested and they need to take on the risk to be able to achieve their goals."

For small business owners, this risk means being willing to stretch their investing beyond their own companies. Because entrepreneurs are already taking on risks simply by being in business, they're often leery of investing in the markets.

"When they give me money, they want to put it in CDs," Grant said. But last year's pandemic showed why it's crucial for entrepreneurs to diversify their investments.

"Small businesses got hit the hardest last year, and if there is a slow year, you may need to hit some investments you had in another place that did well," Grant said.

3. You can't afford that much house

Whether you're looking to buy your first home or your dream house, the mortgage isn't the only price tag you need to consider. Homeownership can be a great source of pride. But when you're spending your weekends fixing the deck, stopping leaks, mowing the lawn, or getting a new roof, you realize it also can take a toll on your time and money.

"It's an asset, but it's not creating any income for you. It's a drain," Grant said.

While Grant still believes homeownership is a good idea, he asks his clients to remember this: "Examining how much house you can afford has to do with all of the management and maintenance of the house, too."

All in all, Grant wants his clients to keep their eyes on the prize.

"The key to keeping on top of this," he said, "is have a plan, monitor that plan, and base your spending on what that plan tells you that you can do."

Related Content Module: More Financial Planner Coverage

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