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So...Am I Rich Yet?

I was broke for the first 30 years of my life. My parents never made more than  $40,000 a year, combined. We grew up in the lower middle class. My mom worked two jobs as a waitress and my dad would drive a taxi on weekends after working a 50 hours in a warehouse. It was because of this I got really good at being frugal and learning how to find hot deals, and live as cheap as possible. In the past 2.5 years, I somehow figured out how to go from making around $600 a month and having less than $1,000 to my name, to earning over six figures the past few years.  On my best months I'd make close to the same amount both me and my parents would make in an entire year in the past.

But I also knew that as an entrepreneur, these earnings aren't guaranteed and could go down drastically. Luckily I didn't start living like a rapper and didn't upgrade my lifestyle too much even when I was technically balling out in Asia and sometimes earning close to $30k in a single month. I thought ahead and managed to invest 80% of my earnings during those years and all of the money I made when selling my drop shipping stores instead of spending it. Now that I'm updating this article for 2020, my net worth has tripled since writing this and I'm actually genuinely curious how and if my answers will change. Keep reading to find out the 12 Questions to Ask Yourself to find out if you're rich yet or more importantly, if you're wealthy. I know i'm curious for myself.




Am I Rich Yet?


Let's start with the actual definition and go from there as there is a huge variation on what is actually considered rich or wealthy, and now being Financially Independent with FatFIRE or whatever you want to call it. Luckily, this blog post should help define what is actually is that we're all striving to work towards.


rich
riCH/
adjective
  1. 1.
    having a great deal of money or assets; wealthy.
    "most of these artists are already quite rich"
    synonyms:wealthyaffluentmoneyed, well off, well-to-doprosperousopulent,silk-stocking


So far so good, but does a fancy watch, designer clothes, expensive cars and a big house mean we're rich, even if we have nothing in savings or investments?

Instead, read below for the 12 questions that answer the burning question, "Are we actually wealthy?" I answered these in 2016 when I first started earning a lot of money, and had a total net worth of around $200,000. I've added comments now in 2020 to see how things have changed as I've gotten older, grown my net worth to over $700,000 but have taken a reduction in my monthly earnings as I've sold the business and started living primarily off of investment income.






1. Do you have to work to fund your lifestyle? If you work it is because you want to work, not because you need to work.



If the answer is yes, you're not rich yet, and neither am I. Even though I love what I do for work, the fact is, if I stopped working, my money would run. Most of my businesses are set up to be semi-passive so even if I stopped working today, money would still come in, and at least for the next year or two, it would be enough to fund my current lifestyle.

2020 Update: It's funny that just one year after writing this article I sold that first drop shipping store and I actually retired for the first time as I had enough in passive income and investments to allow me to continue to live my current lifestyle in South East Asia. The reason why I started working again though was instead of settling for LeanFIRE (making the bare minimum and living cheaply) I decided that I wanted to level up and have enough to live in more expensive countries if I chose to, fly business class once a year if I felt like it, and be able to be generous with my friends, family and take care of them as well if needed.

Now in 2020, I technically don't actually need to work at all if I wanted to, but continue to do mostly what I enjoy doing as the side benefit of having more money is nice, and is bringing me closer to retiring with a strong FIRE or maybe even FatFire account saved up. (having $4-$8k in monthly passive investment income or drawdown)






2. Does your unearned (passive) income you generate exceeds your living expenses.



When I first read about passive income in Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I thought it was out of my reach. I wasn't a musician, TV star, didn't have any patents or royalties. I didn't think earning passive income would ever be possible. But now I have two books and a couple courses that are completely passive along with earned dividends from my index fund investments.

That combined with my ultra low costs of living here in Chiang Mai, with $150,000 in investments you pretty much live off of just the dividend and growth as long as you keep your living expenses low.  This is location arbitrage where as digital nomads we can pick and choose the most affordable places on Earth to live.


2020 update: When I wrote this, I had around $200,000 in total networth which would allow me to take a $800 a month 4% draw down. I had plenty of passive and semi-passive income streams, but I knew those may eventually dry out if I don't maintain or update them. So technically back in 2016 I had enough Passive + Investment income to retire, but it wasn't forever income.

Now in 2020, having over $650,000 invested means I can draw down 4% a year (read my FIRE article for explanation) which gives me over $2,000 a month which is higher than my costs of living. However, it's not enough to live in more expensive places, or be able to continue giving my parents $1,000 a month as well as pay their property tax each year, which is why I continue to work and earn money now. Luckily combined with my other sources of income, I make between $4k-$10k a month on average but it's not completely passive.







3. Can you afford to take the number of vacations you want to take during the year and travel as much as you'd like to?


Finally yes, but only because I continue to work wherever I am as a digital nomad. This is rich hacking 101 where instead of having either a vacation or continue to make money, we can finally have both. The next goal is to have enough passive income and enough automation in place so I can go on a 3 week trek up to places like Everest Base camp without needing to check email.


2020 Update: Good news is that I've finally been able to take that 3 week trekking trip in Nepal as well as go on 2 week scuba diving live aboard trips without needing to check email. Living as a digital nomad, i've been traveling 11 months of the year and have been enjoying this hack. However, I wouldn't be able to afford traditional 2 week luxury vacations like most people. But honestly, I really don't think that's even something I want to do.





4. Can you afford all healthcare or medical costs that may arise for you, your spouse, or any family members, including the cost of long-term care inside or outside your home?


If I was in the US i'd be screwed as health care there is so overpriced and messed up. But luckily in places like Thailand I can afford to pay cash for great doctors and healthcare even without insurance which is another travel hack and benefit of being location independent.

2020 Update: I don't think i'll ever want to pay for US Health care. If I ever move back, I'll probably get a job at Trader Joe's or something just to have health care or get Medishare. But i'd honestly rather keep living out of the country and doing what I do now about insurance.

In all the years I've now bypassed traditional health insurance, I've saved enough to pay for pretty much anything out of pocket anywhere outside of the US.





5. Can you afford to purchase new cars for you and your family without relying on bank loans?


Yes and if I were to buy a new car, I would pay cash for it, as I've realized how ridiculous it is to over extend ourselves just to look cool in a fancier and fancier car every 3-5 years when we trade in. However, since I'm a business owner, I would most likely lease my next car because it'll be a tax write off. That or i'll simply use car share programs or Uber.

2020 Update: Yes finally, but I also wouldn't do it. Buying cars new is generally a terrible use of money. As much as I'd love to buy a brand new 2020 C8 Corvette for $65k, I'd rather just buy a 2015 C7 right now for less than $35k, invest the rest of the money, then buy the C8 in a few years when prices drop.

Or I'd be wise and just buy a slightly used normal car for $8,000-$10,000. Either way, i'd most likely just buy a good condition used car from places like CarMax to drive daily, then rent Ferraris or Lamborghinis on the track or for the day once in a while for fun and to get it out of my system.







6. If you got divorced, would it not require that you or your family alter your lifestyle?


It's probably a good thing I'm not married as this question isn't applicable to me. But in most cases marriage is a terrible financial investment for most men.

If I get married it'll be to a woman who is rational enough to realize that herself and will insist on us getting a fair to both of us prenuptial agreement without me even bringing it up.

2020 Update: The harder I work and the more I sacrifice to create a nest egg of savings for myself, the less I'd want to give 50% of it to someone if things didn't work out for some reason. Even if I had children, I don't think leaving them a ton of money would make them better off, which is why I'd probably divide it up to people who actually needed it or give it to charity.







7. If you wanted to, you could afford to pay college costs for all of your children or grandchildren without it affecting your lifestyle?


Colleges and universities are becoming less and less important and the value of them are quickly disappearing. There is a big chance that by the time I have children and they are old enough to go to college it will be even more widely accepted that most college degrees are a waste of time and money. 

I'd rather spend the $20,000 a year on average helping my future children experience the world, start a company, buy as many kindle books they want to read, take online courses, and attend seminars and conferences. 

2020 Update: University degrees are an even worst investment now than they were 4 years ago when I first wrote this. Going to school and wasting $60K or more for a non STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) degree is a complete rip off.

If they wanted to go to school for a STEM degree, I'd tell them to take out a student loan and pay it off quickly after they graduated and found a $200k a year job. Otherwise, I'd have them go to a low cost community college, or study aboard for free in Europe somewhere and gain some life and travel experience along the way.


8. Do you own your home and/or your vacation home outright with no mortgages for either?


Right now I have enough money to buy a starter house in Austin in cash without a mortgage, put down a 25% deposit on a really nice house in California, or I could buy a luxury condo here in Chiang Mai without even thinking about it. 

But the reason why I haven't done any of those is because owning your primary residence is a bad financial investment. The first home I'll buy is most likely going to be a four-plex or a small apartment building so I can live in one and rent out the other units for rental income.


2020 Update: I could pretty much buy a house anywhere in the world right now, but would either have $0 left over afterwards or a mortgage payment each month. This would be a terrible idea and i'm super happy that I haven't bought a house and had to deal with the responsibilities and liabilities of home ownership.

I really believe that unless you're house hacking with roommates/tenants or if otherwise there would e zero chance of you saving/investing money, owning your primary residence is a terrible use of money. I'd rather continue to rent for the rest of my life and use that money for investments instead.







9. Can you afford to meet large, unforeseen expenses, without it affecting your lifestyle?


For most people, unforeseen expenses is directly related to their liabilities, such as your house or brick and mortar business getting hit by an "act of god" that is not covered by insurance. Luckily I have very few liabilities, I have premium travel insurance that covers most things while aboard, and since I live a very minimalist lifestyle anyways I'd be able to cope with whatever may happen.

2020 Update: Yes and even more so than before. I still keep travel insurance just in the tiny chance I need a helicopter lift from some remote island to a decompression chamber, or something crazy like that, but in general, anywhere outside of the US, I can afford to pay for hospital visits, car wrecks, or pretty much whatever else gets thrown my way. I'd be able to technically afford it while visiting back in the US, but it could end up affecting my lifestyle depending on how much it is.



Scuba Diving in Borneo with a Cuttlefish


10. Do you have no financial constraints on your activities? Can do what you please, when you please, without considering the cost?


As of right now, I'm finally at a point where if I want to go on a 5 day liveaboard dream diving trip I can. However, I'm still really smart with my money and generally don't waste money on luxuries. For most activities I enjoy such as doing Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Scuba Diving, Trekking, Camping and generally being out in Nature luckily they're not super expensive anyway. 

But I do plan on learning how to snowboard one of these seasons, but instead of renting a luxury chalet for 10 nights, I'd rather use that money to rent a basic cabin or apartment and stay for 1-2 months.

2020 Update: Yes but no. This is where things get a bit tricky. Right now I could technically do all the things I wanted such as fly business class, eat at a Michelin starred restaurant, buy a brand new 2020 Corvette C8, and live in a luxury condo in San Diego. However, I also know that if I chose to do this all of the time, I would eventually run out of money after 10 years or so.

I could technically start living a life of luxury now, spending $6,000 a month as I'll most likely continue earning money anyways, but the safe, frugal part of me, doesn't allow myself to do that right now as I'm more focused on growing my net worth and investments, so that I can have a higher 4% FIRE Drawdown later in life.







11. Do you have zero debt?


One of the best decisions I've ever made was paying off my student loans with the excess cash I had from selling my car, and savings when I first started traveling in 2008. I had around $20,000 in debt when I first started traveling, but instead of paying the minimum payment every month and using the excess money to travel and see more of SE Asia, I limited my budget, and paid 2-3x my minimum payment every month.

I'd also use most of the money I'd make when traveling back to the U.S. to work for the summer to pay off the debt as well. Within 4 years my 20 year loan was completely paid off and it allowed me to be financially free even though I was completely broke and had no cash in the bank. It's easy to tell yourself that student loan debt is considered "good debt" and that at less than 4% it's a "wise" investment not to pay it off too quickly, but trust me, no debt is good debt as it limits your freedom

2020 Update: I am still 100% debt free and extremely happy about that decision. Although I've been tempted to buy income generating rental properties, that would have required getting a mortgage or multiple loans to do so. Not only would that be a huge headache and liability right now during the 2020 recession, but it would also be a danger to my net worth and peace of mind.

The best thing I ever did was go completely debt free and not take out any loans, leverage or mortages.


12. Do you no longer require life insurance, health insurance, or long-term care insurance? 


Most people don't realize this but the only point of paying for insurance of any kind is if you can't comfortably self-fund the costs associated with the type of insurance you're taking out.  If you carry insurance, it should either be for estate tax planning purposes or to protect the assets you’ve accumulated.

An easy example would be the fact that rich people don't need to buy insurance on iPhones. If you only afford to pay the $199 upfront cost for the phone you also should get insurance as if you lose or break your phone, you'll still be responsible for the 2 year contract as will have to pay $800+ out of pocket for to buy a replacement off contract if you lose or break your phone. If you're rich you can just buy another one without stressing about the cost. The same goes for other types of insurance. It's not always a bad idea to buy insurance, but if you're genuinely rich, you'll be fine even without it.


2020 Update: I'm in the same situation as before. I never buy insurance on my iPhone, laptop, or anything else I own, but I do keep travel insurance just in case. However, having canceled flights, or hotels wouldn't actually hurt my net worth, it would just be a minor annoyance as I have enough savings not to worry about it. However, I've also met a lot of people that are in bad financial situations because the airlines cancelled their flights and only gave them a credit instead of a cash refund.

Watch this:






So...Am I Rich Yet?


Compared to where I was just a couple years ago, yes, beyond my wildest dreams. I'm making more money per month now that I used to in an entire year, and can afford to travel wherever I want, do whatever I want, and even send my parents money every month without worrying about being broke ever again. However, the only reason why I have as much money in the bank as I do is because I grew up living frugally and still don't waste money or make bad investments. 

I use location arbitrage and live in places like Chiang Mai that allow me to live the type of lifestyle I want for less than $1,300 a month, and even give me the option to really bootstrap if I ever needed to for half of that. This allows me to put over $10,000 into index funds or into my savings account each and every month which has been adding up quickly. In 2.5 years I managed to go from having $200 in my bank accounts to over $200,000. 

Most Americans have less than $1,000 in savings are are living paycheck to paycheck

2020 Update: The thing I'm most proud about is keeping my word to my parents and now sending them over $40,000 over these past four years as well as paying for their property tax each year. I still think back sometimes to when I was living as cheap as possible, and although I enjoyed those years and am glad I wrote about the experience in my 1st book titled 12 Weeks in Thailand: The Good Life on the cheap, I'm also glad I moved out of that phase and built financial stability for myself.






Compared to the Actual 1% 



I'm not making $400,000 a year yet, and don't have Millions of dollars in the bank, so I'm nowhere close to being rich in that sense. But here's the reason why I wrote this article, there is a massive difference between being rich and being wealthy.

You can make $400k a year but if you're spending half a million, you're still broke. You can have millions in the bank but if you have no freetime to spend with friends, family, people you love, see the world or do the things you love, in my opinion, you're also broke.

"The rich have lots of money but the wealthy don't worry about money.” - Robert Kiyosaki

I'm not rich yet, but am on the path to being so one day. I try to bring up as many people along with me and share what has been working for me as I know the more people you share your success with, the more support and good karma you get yourself. I'm very fortunate to finally be considered wealth and would not trade it for the world.

Becoming an entrepreneur and learning how to start my first online store, then learning how to podcast, publish books, create courses, monetize my blogs and podcast with affiliate income, put together conferences, and everything else i've been sharing in my monthly income reports has been the best thing that's ever happened to be financially. If you don't know the full details on how I got started or are having trouble getting started yourself, I highly recommend you read my latest book, Life Changes Quick, as it highlights the exact steps I took to make my first $30,000 which was the start to everything you see today.


Find the book on Amazon or buy the PDF here.

Here's to everyone being wealthy and striving to become truly rich. I sincerely hope everyone the best of success. If you have no idea where to get started, here are four ways to make $100 online which is explains how important it is to get started and why that first $100 matters more than your first $10,000 even.

2020 Update: I'm most proud and happy to say that I everything mentioned above is still the right decision. I share this info because I could have easily went the wrong path, or lost all of my money making stupid investments like many people do.

I've since started co-hosting the Invest Like a Boss Podcast and share openly everything I invest in as well as explore alternative ways to grow my cash. I'm looking forward to updating this blog posts again in another 4 years to see what else has changed, my prediction will be that I will cross the $1,000,000 networth figure and officially become a Millionaire.

However I also predict that not much else will change in my life once I become one as I'll still only want to withdraw 4% a year so I stay above the $1m point and so that it'll last throughout retirement. Lets see what happens as life indeed changes quick.



Subscribe and listen to the podcast. 





Keep in touch, leave a comment, and hope to see your success!


Warm Regards,

Johnny



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  1. Hi Johnny

    I really look forward to your posts. This one rings true in the sense that as we strive to become financially independent we should not forget where we come from or why we started out on the path. Thanks again and all the best for 2016.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Happy to share Leroy! Here's to a great 2016 and always remembering where we came from!

      Delete
  2. I wish I had a 4% interest rate on my student loan. Actually, it's 12%. Regardless, I am paying 2-3 times the minimum payment and hopefully I can shake it in 2 years or so (17k left).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WTF 12%? That is insane! I would google "Student Loan Refinancing" and find one with good reviews that does a FIXED rate that's less than 6% in your case.

      And good job paying 2-3X the minimum!

      Delete
  3. Your last three posts have been about your money. Wtf, johnny? Write about something else

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon, eat a snickers, you're not yourself when you're hungry.

      Delete
    2. It does get tiresome. It would be harder to sell things without telling everyone how rich they've made you though so iunno.

      Delete
    3. Anon... Why so Angry? The beauty of this blog is Johnny's honesty about money. I have been at the game since 1999, I earn substantially more then Johnny, and yet I am still inspired by him and I look forward to everyone of his podcasts.

      Delete
    4. Hey Brian, congrats on all of your success! Really glad to be able to be transparent and honest about money, both the ups and downs! Glad you enjoy the Travel Like a Boss Podcast!

      Do me a favor and leave a review of it on iTunes as it helps a ton!

      Delete
  4. I think an important question to add to that list for digital nomads is "can you live anywhere in the world?"

    If you live somewhere like Chiang Mai and you are there because the lifestyle suits you perfectly, that's one thing but if you *have* to live somewhere with a low cost of living because that's all you can afford, then you aren't rich yet :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathry good point. I actually wrote about that in "Life Changes Quick" as the point I realized I was broke was when my friend Kurt wanted to go to Europe for the summer and I realized even though I was doing okay in Chiang Mai, I couldn't afford to go with him.

      Which is why when I finally got there it meant the world to me.

      Delete
  5. Sorry Johnny you're wrong about one point: marriage without a prenup is a terrible financial investment for both men AND women. Its not just men making the big bucks nowadays. There are tons of women out there killing it in business ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Would like to hear your suggestions about the 1-2 months rental for the snowboarding? We did the 1 week luxury chalet and it was great, but would like to do a longer/more affordable trip.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For the same price as doing a 1 week luxury chalet somewhere expensive, you can easily do 1-2 months in a cheaper and even get a season pass. A few places that might be worth looking into is Bulgaria, Czech Republic, and other less popular places or Europe. Or even do something like get an apartment in Salt Lake City, Utah and drive 30-60 minutes to the lifts. This would allow you to live like a local, but still go snowboarding as often as you want. Same in places in Bansko and Europe.

      Delete
  7. Hi Johnny,

    Well written post which makes more sense to me. I particularly like the part of having to take up the debt. I advocate no debt for me in the entire lifetime to the best of my ability. This gives me the peace of mind.

    WTK

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks WTK. Paying off my debt and not taking new debt out has been one of the best choices I've ever made.

      Delete
  8. wow :) you are so down to earth!! I like the phrase, "Luckily I didn't start living like a rapper (bwahahaa) " and "I try to bring up as many people along with me and share." Thanks for everything that it's on its way!
    quite random, I found you from google search, about Chiang Mai living stuff(I just LOVE traveling), but then I found another way of life, DSL!
    currently am working two job for the situation we have in our family, but this will end soon! I'll start that by doing what Anton and You are telling us to do!
    Hopefully things will turn out fine ! ! ! Since I'm wealthy already, it's time to be rich as hell.
    I'll keep try to reduce the "no"s in my and my family's life! Thanks for the motivation man! Now it's my turn to work that out :)
    I'm spending my free time 100% on this DSL. So pumped ! ! ! !
    Even though there's some scarcity of time and all, I'm gonna be winner with no excuses!!

    Best wishes, Angela
    * when you have time you are more than welcome to visit my instagram !!!
    @angelatravels_

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey that's awesome you found me! I'm glad you're in Anton's course, just do the exact steps he outlines, it works!

      Keep traveling when we can again and get that money! =)

      Delete

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