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Wealth & Finance
January 9, 2024

HOW TO BUILD A BUNDLE

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Through their popular Earn Your Leisure Podcast—which they describe as “a college business class mixed with pop culture”—Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings aim to take some of the mystery out of managing money and building wealth. The pair sat down with WayMaker Journal to share some of their financial wisdom.
WJ: What would you tell people who say they don’t make enough money to invest?
RB: I always say, first look what you’re spending money on. A lot of times you’d be surprised how much money you can actually save. We always encourage everybody to create a budget and look back the last couple of months, see what you spent your money on. Very rarely is it where someone can’t make some budget cuts and allocate some money toward investing. . . Eating out is a big expense. Not even thinking about a five-star restaurant, just lunch, you’d be surprised—especially if you live in a metropolitan area like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles—you eat out just a regular lunch a couple of times a week, and that’s a couple hundred dollars [a month]. Get your lunchbox out. Is it necessary to have premium cable? You watch maybe two shows, but you’re paying for 150 different channels. . . It’s a matter of prioritizing. You’d be surprised how much money you can save.
TM: Our slogan has always been assets over liabilities—you can enjoy yourself, but let’s add some balance. Let’s have some assets that pay for those pieces of luxury that you want. But we always say earn your leisure. You’ve got to put in some work. . . Part of it is that if all we think about is ourselves, we’ve missed the point. We’re not out here making investments and creating income just for ourselves. . . if we’re not thinking about the future generations before they are here then we are being selfish. Investing isn’t selfish; you’re doing it not just for you, but for the people that come so that the hard work that you do, they won’t have to do, but they can learn from it and reap the benefits of it.
WJ: What’s the first step?
RB: Having discipline. I have online savings, separate from my regular banking account. Create a system where every month you are having money come out of your bank account into your online savings—$25 a month, $50 a month, whatever you can afford at that time. But what that does is it develops discipline. And over the course of time, you don’t even realize that you actually are putting that money in. One of the good things about having a 401(k) is that the money comes out of your paycheck, no matter how much money you’re putting in. After a while you don’t even realize it because you just learn to live off of it… Whether it’s Social Security tax, things like dental and health insurance, these things that come out of our paycheck if you work a regular nine to five job, you just learn to live with the amount of money that you’re being paid. If you can transfer that same mentality over [to investing] and just learn to live off of $50 a month less… now you just have to figure out what is comfortable for you. You don’t want to stretch yourself too thin, but you start with something and then just develop that and then just go from there.
WJ: What’s a good level to start at—10%, 20%?
RB: People always say 10%, but that might be a lot for a person, depending on where you live. I like to go with a number. This is why I would go back to budgeting being extremely important. Look at the budget and then look into discretionary income. If you don’t have any, now you’ve got to look at budget cuts or you increase your income somehow—you find a new job side hustle, start a business. You find a way to increase revenue, or you do a combination of both, which in my opinion is the best thing.
TM: We always say you’ve got to take jump shots before you actually go play in the game. So that $25, it doesn’t feel like much, but you’re actually in the game, right? Stop using the word “only.” You’re actually learning the skills of how to invest, and it gives you that practice. Start where you are and let’s see how far [you can go].
WJ: With the market the way it is, is now a good time to start?
RB: Good question. It depends on your philosophy. We’re real big on what’s called dollar cost averaging, where you put a certain amount of money into the market every single month. So, in that case, you’re not really worried about the market… over the course of the time, it averages itself out. The 401(k) model, that’s something that people are familiar with, where every two weeks you’re putting money into the stock market. If you’re taking that approach, then it’s never a bad time to start putting money in because you’re going to be doing it every single month or biweekly, whatever. Now, if you want to do a lump sum investment, then you might want to wait because odds are that we will have a pullback at some point, because that’s just how the markets work. Anything that goes up must come down.
TM: We always say there’s no way to time the market; the best thing to do is have time in the market.
WJ: What about real estate?
RB: Real estate is pretty much at an all-time high, depending on where you live. A lot of people thought it was going to collapse during coronavirus and it didn’t. It has actually increased in a lot of metropolitan areas; the D.C.-Maryland real estate market is on fire. Once again, it goes back to what are your goals? If you’re looking to buy a home and have it for 30 years, then I’d be looking at buying. Always buy smart, buy undervalued properties, distressed properties… invest in an area that you think is on the path to gentrification.
WJ: There’s been a lot of talk about day trading. Can you explain this, and is it something to consider right now?
RB: It’s when you’re buying the investment and selling the investment intraday. You might buy a stock at $100 and then 10 minutes later it goes to $102 and then you sell it, so you made a $2 profit. This is when you see people looking at their computer screens and they’re looking at their stock charts. Day trading has become popular because, if done correctly, if you know what you’re doing, you can make a lot of money in a very short period. But it’s important to understand that it is not easy. It’s a skill, like anything. You have to be extremely disciplined. You have to learn how to read charts, entry points, exit points, things of that nature. And you have to be aware of taxes as well—a lot of times you sell stock or any investment short of a year, you get a hit with short-term capital gains tax, which is a lot higher than long-term capital gains tax. . . So, when you keep doing these trades every single day, at the end of the game, when you get a 1099 and you’re like, “How did I have to pay this much money in taxes?”
TM: Since the pandemic, since March 2020, we saw millions of people come into the market, so that’s very, very encouraging, but a lot of them were looking at immediate gratification. . . We saw some stocks that hit rock bottom. It takes a lot of practice.
WJ: When is the right time to hire a financial adviser?
RB: If you are looking to develop a financial plan and you don’t have the time or the expertise… Trying to do everything yourself is a recipe for disaster because nobody is knowledgeable on everything. Even if you know everything about investing, you probably might not be the best on retirement planning or how to save money on taxes. Have a financial team—an attorney, a CPA. The better the players on your team, you’ll have a greater chance of success. Anybody could really benefit from a financial adviser. People think that you have to be extremely rich to have a financial adviser and that’s not true.
TM: When’s the best time? I say now. I got a life insurance [policy] before I had a child. Obviously, I’ve added to it, but that policy has been in place for years and that wasn’t something I was thinking about. [But Rashad, who was my first financial adviser] was like, “Look to the future.” Now is the right time.
WJ: What’s the best piece of financial advice you have ever been given?
RB: Live within your means and learn to invest. Especially in our community, we have a bad habit of trying to keep up with the Joneses and that could be at any level. You could make $10 million a year and want to live like somebody that makes more… Or you can make $50,000 and want to live like somebody who makes more. The problem with that is, there’s always somebody that has got more money than you have. Just being secure within yourself is something that’s extremely important when it comes to money management… We don’t really feel good about ourselves, so we try to spend money to try to make that better, but ultimately that’s a never-ending race. So, live within your means and learn to invest. If you can accomplish both of those things, you’re on the pathway to success.
TM: [As someone said], plan for the future because you’re going to be older a lot longer than you’re going to be younger. Another thing [my adviser said], people are told to have an emergency account of six to 12 months, and he said, “I want to challenge you to have it for 60.” I was like, “Why? That’s five years.” He said, “Well, it won’t be about you. You’re going to have to take care of your family.” It goes back to the beginning, when I said it’s going to be a selfless act; it won’t be about you.
WJ: Tell us about the name, Earn Your Leisure.
TM: It really encompasses everything we’re about. People see the nice cars, they see us taking vacations, they see the nice parties… they don’t realize how hard we have to work, they see the end result… we’ve earned some of these freedoms that we’ve had. People need to know that you need to work hard to earn.
From an interview with Louis Carr
This article was originally published in the Summer 2022 issue of WayMaker Journal.