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Over the past 2 years I’ve written over 300,000 words about money, spent over 200 hours talking and recording for the podcast, answered over 1,700 reader emails, and done over 200 media interviews all about money. Many people ask me what’s my best piece of advice about money.
I usually give some sound byte answer that to the person asking me is just enough for their article or situation, but it’s actually pretty basic. See, when it comes to money, most people are surface level. They do the bare minimum if they do anything at all. They wonder why their life isn’t moving forward when they spend 5 hours a night watching Netflix and scrolling through Instagram.
Then it hit me at 6 this morning, as I’m decompressing from putting literally everything I’ve learned about money in my life into one book. As I’m watching the sunrise over the mountains in Sedona.
Here’s the one thing that really sticks out to me. If you want to make more money, save more money, get a new job, follow your passion, escape the 9 to 5, whatever it is…
You need to find your next money level
Only you can find your next level, not someone else. Not some blogger’s next level or your friend’s next level or your parent’s next level or the media’s next level.
But how fast you can make it happen is all about finding your next level. And doing it every day. No, not monthly or yearly. Yes, daily. Saving at least $50 a day helped me reach financial independence at least 10 years faster.
Money is simply a human invention. We embed it with emotion and meaning and purpose. You can either control it or it’s going to control you. It’s something to be mastered, used, and optimized. Not something to hold you back. If it’s holding you back you need to look at the other areas of your life, it’s not money’s fault. Something’s going on that you need to change. You need to find your next money level.
The more you master money, the more control you will have over the other areas of your life. The more options and opportunities you will have.
Automation is not enough, it’s just the beginning
So many of the experts out there will tell you the key to wealth is automation, but automation is not enough. Automation is the status quo. It’s how you get complacent. It’s thinking that saving 5% or 10% of your income is enough. It’s not enough. It’s just the beginning. If you are saving 10%, you need to do everything you can to save 11%.
If you want to buy that new car you’ve been dreaming about for years, it’s about saying no and learning that just being able to buy something is enough -- you don’t actually have to buy it. It’s about spending those extra few hours on a Saturday morning before everyone else wakes up working on your side hustle. It’s about knowing that you need to leave your job because you’re unhappy and actually going into your boss’s office and doing it. It’s easy to automate, to coast in life. But coasting won’t get you to the next level.
Pushing is how you get to financial freedom. How you get to any kind of freedom
Financial independence is not built on complacency. It’s built on pushing your boundaries as often as you can. It’s about being uncomfortable sometimes. It’s about growing and learning and challenging and pushing. And then pushing more.
Sure you can sit back and follow the expert’s advice -- “keep doing this and you’ll be able to retire in 30 years!”. Are you kidding me? If you settle for a status quo, that’s cool, but settling for the default will impact other areas of your life. I can tell you one thing, it going to be really hard for you to get ahead unless you make sacrifices and keep pushing your boundaries, keep pushing your comfort zone.
If you want to be an entrepreneur (are you an entrepreneur?) then stop talking about it, throw away your “hustle harder” t-shirt, and actually get down to work. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many entrepreneurs and the only differences between an entrepreneur and a wantrepreneur are two things -- getting started and then keeping at it. If you want to start a blog or start actually making money online, or become a writer, or whatever you want to do. Just start doing it, keep doing it, and never settle. You have to push. You have to want it.
Life and money are about taking calculated risks
It’s easy to sit back and play it safe. It’s wired into our DNA -- don’t touch the fire, don’t peek over that cliff. Fear keeps us safe, it keeps us alive. But it also keeps us from truly living, from growing, and from getting ahead. Unfortunately, we live in a fear-driven world. But what’s actually pushed humanity forward is the same force that will push you forward -- taking calculated risks. Finding the way around the fire and over the cliff.
I can tell you another thing I’ve learned about life and money the past few years -- the more calculated risks you take, the happier you will be. Whether it’s asking for raise, investing in the stock market, starting a side hustle, quitting your job, taking a mini-retirement, whatever it is, taking calculated risks is the smartest way to push forward in all areas of your life.
Taking calculated risks is a lot different than just being risky. Don’t be dumb. Be strategic. Make a plan, weigh your options, evaluate the implications, evaluate the alternatives. Write down the pros and cons. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis (learn how here). One of the best ways to take calculated risks is to develop a set of principles to help you make decisions. Principles give you a framework for making decisions. If you haven’t read it yet, definitely check out Ray Dalio’s book Principles: Life and Work-- it will help you see the world in a new way and help you make better decisions. It’s one of the best books on making decisions I’ve read.
Learn to say yes to yourself and no to almost everything else
We live in a world where people are trying to take both your money and your time. “Can I just have 5 minutes, sir?” “I have a great deal for you.” Meetings, meetings, meeting. Bills, bills, bills. Etc. etc.
But if you want to get ahead with money (and other areas of your life), you’ve got to learn to say yes to yourself and no to almost everything else. No one cares about your own time or money as much as you. Give both generously when you want and protect dearly when you don’t. If you just let life happen to you, if you coast, then it’s naturally going to eat up both your money and your time. That’s just the way the world works. If you don’t push against the current, you’re more likely to get carried away.
If you want to get to the next level, you’ll need to say yes to things that push you forward and no to almost everything else. Learning to say no was one of the hardest and most important lessons I’ve learned. And I’m still learning how to do it.
Always seek the next level, and push through it
If you want to make more money look for the next level. If you want to save more money look for the next level. If you want to be an entrepreneur look for the next level. If you want a different life look for the next level. While money won’t solve all your problems, it can definitely buy you more freedom. More opportunities. More time. And remember money is not the goal, time is.
Next Level Money = Next Level Life
Here are a few next money levels
While there are many levels of money management and optimization, here are a few next steps you can take today, as in right now, to push to the next level. All of these can help you save and make more money.
- Start tracking your net-worth for free using Personal Capital. Your net worth is more important than your income and is the most important measure in personal finance. Tracking it regularly will not only motivate you, but it will help you make better decisions.
- Increase your 401k contribution by at least 1% today, then every 30 days
- Put an extra $20 to pay down your credit card or other high-interest debt
- If you have student loans, see if refinancing can save you money (most people are leaving money on the table). Check out some great refinance rates.
- Optimize your insurance -- most people are paying to much for car insurance. The cheapest and best car insurance I’ve found is through Metromile.
- Save an extra $50 in your IRA today. If you don’t yet have a Roth IRA, open one
- Try to make an extra $20 just to invest
- Start building your case for raise using this strategy.
- Evaluate whether you should buy instead of rent. Definitely, check out house hacking.
- Housing is likely your biggest expenses, so do what you can to live rent free
- Read one of the best money books
- Evaluate your commuting costs and try to save money on them
- If you plan to go out for food, here’s how to save money eating out
- The next time you plan to buy anything learn how to calculate the true cost
- Fight lifestyle inflation -- stop spending more money even though you’re making more
BTW -- I am opening up one more private coaching spot and I’m looking for the right fit. If you are interested in working with me and you’d like to apply sign up below.
And that’s the just the beginning. There is always more to learn about saving and making money. There is always the next level. Keep searching for it. Keep pushing.
What’s your next level?
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