Side Hustles: They’re Not Just About Extra Money

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About 10 years ago, I got a phone call from my Dad. He was really excited…

”Hey Joel, guess what!? Me and Dr. Pat are starting a band! It’ll be me, Dr. Pat, Brassy, Boney Bob, *insert about 10 other nicknames I’ve never heard of*… We’re all starting a band called The Rock Doctors!”

I was a little surprised. Dad was almost 50 years old at the time and had been a white collar professional his whole life. So it was hard to picture him as the lead guitarist in a rock band.

I’m all for people following their passion, but I gotta admit in my head I was thinking, “Dad, aren’t you a bit old to be starting a side hustle? I don’t think you’ll make much money.”

Shame on me! To my surprise, after a few months of practice, The Rock Doctors booked their first gig at a small local pub.

Then word started spreading and before they knew it, they had a regular playing schedule at a couple different venues around town.

As years went on, their schedule got busier and busier, so they hired a band manager. They booked corporate events, a couple hotels and even played at a well known Australian music festival!

In 2015, the Rock Doctors flew to Hawaii to play at my wedding! Funny story actually… The night before my wedding, the band members all went drinking down in Waikiki. They made friends with some locals and somehow ended up playing a few songs on stage at the Hawaii Yacht Club! A night my Dad and his buddies will never forget.

To my knowledge the band doesn’t make much money. And they’ll never be world famous rock stars…

But that’s not the point. The point is you never know where your passion projects and side hustles will end up. If you never make much money from it, that’s OK! Side hustles can lead to things way more valuable than extra income. My Dad’s hustle certainly did.

Side Hustles Aren’t Just About Extra Income

We talk a lot about side hustles on this blog. And if you look up the basic definition of side hustle, you’ll find: “A side hustle is an additional job that a person takes in addition to their primary job in order to supplement their income.”

Although I love the idea of earning extra income, I truly believe that most long-term side hustles are successful because they:

  • Are fun and enjoyable
  • Fulfill a larger mission or purpose in life
  • Provide a good service to others
  • Are a creative outlet
  • Lead to unexpected cool experiences
  • Develop skills you didn’t know you had
  • Let you experiment, fail, learn, grow, boost your confidence, and a million other cool things that have nothing to do with earning money

Money might be one of the main reasons you want to try something, but I don’t think it should be the only reason. Side hustles can be passion projects, hobbies, or in the words of my friend Alan Donegan, “just doing cool shit with cool people!”

FIRE Changed My Mindset About Hustling

When I was younger, I quite happily traded my time for money. Working was solely about earning income and finding the highest hourly pay for my time, even if I didn’t enjoy the work.

This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing… One of my side jobs was working the night shift sorting mail at the post office. It was a crappy job but I didn’t care, because I saved a cool $10,000 in six months in addition to my day job. That’s life-changing money for a young adult, if invested properly over time.

But, none of my side hustles or jobs lasted a very long time. With money as my sole focus, I was always searching for something better and higher-paying. It’s a frustrating and never-ending quest. My personal time became more and more valuable as I got older, so it was harder and harder to trade it for just money.

The FIRE movement has helped me redefine my relationship with “work” (both for side hustles AND my main job!). Prioritizing money is OK sometimes, but not all the time. FIRE is teaching me to nurture and explore the enjoyment side of work (which ironically is a very important skill if you’re planning to retire early in life!).

Money Is a Byproduct of Success

John Rockefeller once said, “If your only goal is to become rich, you will never achieve it.”

Nobody knows what he truly meant when he said this. But I like to think he was trying to encourage people to think about the process, not the end result. If you pursue things with the sole intent of getting rich, you might be giving up precious experiences in return — and thus stripping yourself of a truly rich life.

Instead, if we think about how we like to spend our time, and pursue our hobbies ruthlessly, success compounds and money can come as a byproduct.

Hustling Is Easier If You Enjoy What You Do

There’s a time and a place to prioritize money. Picking up side jobs for extra income isn’t a bad thing — and it can solve short-term financial problems like paying off a credit card, funding a vacation, or supplementing a low income. Quick extra cash is needed sometimes!

But if you’ve got your basic financial needs covered, I encourage you to pursue hustles that you truly find fun. Try exploring the non-money benefits of side hustles, as you might find it more satisfying, and longer-lasting. 🙂

Ok, stepping off my soapbox now. Happy hustling, friends! I’m proud of you no matter what you choose to pursue.

Have a great weekend,


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Using AI to question the power structures of Western museums. Interview with Nora Al-Badri

For years, Egypt has been trying to convince European museums to return Egyptian antiquities that left their country illegally. One of the most famous disputed artifact is the bust of 14th-century BCE Egyptian queen Nefertiti. German archaeologists took it from the African country in 1912 and their country has since repeatedly denied loan requests from Egypt’s cultural institutions. The debate around the growing list of disputed museum treasures is one that most of Europeans would rather not think about. Once in a while however, a scandal, a protest, a movie or a contemporary artwork forces ex-colonising countries to confront the firm grip that their institutions maintain on access to knowledge and on the global narratives of history.

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, The Other Nefertiti, 2015

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, Fossil Futures, 2017

In early 2016, artists Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles announced that they had illegally scanned the Nefertiti head at Neues Museum in Berlin, they also made a copy of the bust and released the 3D data. Their “Nefertiti Hack” became the centre of heated discussions about ownership, authenticity, cultural identity and power imbalances.

A couple of years later, the artists turned their attention to another icon of Berlin cultural life: Oskar, the world’s largest assembled dinosaur skeleton. This Brachiosaurus brancai lived nearly 150 million years old ago. Al-Badri and Nelles tracked its origins to the south of Tanzania. Discovered by German archaeologists when Tanzania was still under colonial rule, the petrified bones were shipped to Germany, assembled and are now the main stars of Berlin’s Museum of Natural History. The artistic investigation culminated in Fossil Future, a series of works that further engaged with the enduring consequences and legacies of colonial power.

Nora Al-Badri, Babylonian Vision, 2020

Nora Al-Badri‘s most recent research projects apply GANs to images of archaeological artifacts in order to continue her questioning of the institutional power structures of Western museums. What make her works -and the one she has developed in collaboration with Nikolai Nelles– so compelling is that they go beyond confronting the audience with uncomfortable ethical questions about the full history of museum collections. They also present new platforms for public discussions, new counter narratives and new emancipatory strategies to examine issues of decolonisation.

Nora Al-Badri is a multi-disciplinary media artist with a German-Iraqi background. She lives and works in Berlin. She graduated in political sciences at Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt / Main. We talked over a Skype video call:

Nora Al-Badri, Babylonian Vision, 2020

Nora Al-Badri, Babylonian Vision training, 2020

Hi Nora! Let’s start with Babylonian Vision, a work you’ve developed as the first artist in residency at the Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and its Laboratory for Experimental Museology (eM+) led by Sarah Kenderdine.

In the description of the work, you say that you contacted the five museums that have the largest collections of Mesopotamian, Neo-Sumerian and Assyrian artefacts and they didn’t give you the authorisation. Did they actually answer you and motivate their refusal?

Some of them responded. Some have their formal channels through which researchers or journalists can make requests for their datasets or get information about the artefacts but usually, the response was that it would cost some money and that for each object you want to access, you would have to sign one page and describe the reason for your request. I needed 10 000 objects which made it unmanageable. Through these bureaucratic obstacles, these institutions are also gaining control over the objects.

Why 10 000? Did you already know there were so many digitised artefacts in these collections or was it that you needed the critical mass for the technology?

We needed critical mass to train a neural network from scratch. There are millions of objects even though not all of them have been digitised yet. In the end, I was glad that somehow the institutions do not realise that some parts of their database is actually available online. One person cannot download all these objects one by one but the process can be automated and that’s what we did. That was the web-crawling part of the project.

One of the most important thing to me when I was thinking about training data sets is the problem of the AI as a black box system that makes it impossible to trace back the dataset used. You just don’t know where the input data came from.

Ironically, this black box problem can now be used against the museum, against the colonial machine. We more or less know who/where the largest collections in the world are but they cannot prove that I used their datasets to train the system. In many instances, the black box aspect of AI can be a problem but in some cases, it can also be liberating.

Nora Al-Badri, Neuronal Ancestral Sculptures Series

Can you explain this idea of the technoheritage? Why was it an important concept to explore?

I started to use that term many years ago when museums began to digitise large amounts of their collections and then created what they described as “digital assets” or “digital artefacts”. In fact a law researcher, Sonia K. Katyal who wrote about another project of mine, did name her article about 3D printing and intellectual copyrights “Technoheritage”. I wondered what the term really meant, if it was just a formulation or something that was independent of the physical object that could be translated, mediated, used and remixed all over the place. In a way, for me, it was a separate entity and I used the term technoheritage to describe it. Heritage is a term that looks into the past but to me, technoheritage is not looking at the past at all. Instead, it is looking towards another scenario of the future. And rather than preserving something, it can offer a new contribution and be used as a starting point for artistic research, for remixing and even updating the object.

The Neuronal Ancestral Sculptures Series also explores the technoheritage. Everything we come up with as artists is not 100% new and original, it builds on what was done before and it cannot be totally isolated from its context. The series is meant to honour works produced thousands of years ago. We still have sculptures similar to those today.

The Neuronal Ancestral Sculptures Series is more or less about the image that comes out of it, it is a concrete as well as synthetic image, like a still image of an object that is the sculpture. Babylonian Vision, on the other hand, is about the process of the machine vision through the Babylonian lens, looking at the patterns and forms of a specific time and era.

BBC Newsnight, #NefertitiHack with Nora Al-Badri

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, NefertitiBot, 2018

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark views the bust of 3,400-year-old Queen Nefertiti, Berlin, 2014. Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images via al-monitor

The NefertitiBot also looks at topics of appropriation, at how the Global North museums and institutions are monopolising the imagery of ancient artefacts. Why did you delegate that difficult conversation to a bot, to a product of technology?

The Bot was an experiment that deals with the computer-human interface. We live in a time when people delegate many things to computers and believe in the results of algorithms. We played with that myth of technology. Personally, as an artist, I wouldn’t delegate the discussions to an automated process but I think that through the interaction with an automated process, we can see more clearly how we, as humans, should learn to be more critical. Automation is not magic. We wanted to expose those kinds of questions to the audience and actually, we were surprised at how critical the Nefertiti Bot was. Of course, the Bot is packed with biases but they are my biases, they are decolonial biases so they are on the opposite side of the usual biases. As artists, we can work with the shortcomings of technology and turn them completely around.

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, ‘NOT A SINGLE BONE’ exhibition at Nome Gallery, Berlin, 2017

Let’s talk about Fossil Futures. It’s always been clear how some cultural artefacts were stolen, appropriated by European and U.S. museums but we tend not to think in appropriation terms when it comes to dinosaurs bones, plants or anything you can find in a Natural History Museum. How did you get involved in this Tanzanian project?

It started a bit as the Nefertiti Bot started. Both Nefertiti and the dinosaur bones are museum centrepieces here in Berlin. That made us want to look closer. Before working on this project, I had no idea that the dinosaur was from Tanzania and that it had come through a large colonial expedition when not just the bones but many other resources were extracted. Many people where probably dislocated as well. If you look closer you will find many stories about objects, plants that have similarly been displaced and appropriated.

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, Territories of Cultural Fracking (videostill), 2017

Nora Al-Badri and Nikolai Nelles, Territories of Cultural Fracking (videostill), 2017

In an interview you did with Berlin Art Link in 2017 you talk about this plan to create a natural forest reserve instead of a museum. You were talking about “counter land-grabbing”. Do you keep in touch with the Tendaguru community and do you know what happened to this project of a forest reserve? /

We did several installations but what we never realised was how difficult it would be to fund the project, especially when we are talking about a project that criticises the people who should actually fund you. This was a failure that could have been anticipated.

We never got to realise the second part of the project which was for me the more important one and that involved installing that natural forest reserve. We were more or less the first people from Germany to go there and ask the community what they actually wanted and who they were. They wanted to set up their own museum, with their own narrative about the site. For them, it is still a sacred site that contains many more stories than the ones told here at the National Museum of Natural History. It ended up becoming a public debate here with the Natural History Museum and in the newspapers that became personal. And maybe I should quote one of the peculiar criticisms one of their historians had: he was enraged and stunned that we dared to speak to the people, because we were no legitimate scientists like ethnographer or historians. As a matter of fact just none of them ever dared to speak to the Tendaguru community.. Unfortunately, the museum managed to shut us down. We were only two artists and we only have so much power.

I’m also wondering about the discussions around the colonial past of Germany. Is it happening?

After the Nefertiti hack, it was a good moment in a way but from then on, the discussion evolved more and more into a broader public debate. Yet, I’m surprised to see how slow-moving the museums are, how conservatively-governed they are. There is a lot of money poured into that kind of research on the colonial past of collections for example. That is great but that research often stays in its ivory tower and hasn’t changed the fundamental nature of the collection. However, I remain optimistic that with more time, more intervention and more pressure from movements such as Rhodes Must Fall and Black Lives Matter as well as from other sides of society the situation will improve.

It is already changing of course but it’s still a bit too hesitant. When we think about decolonising institutions, be it a university or a museum, then the change will only happen through structural change. You can see for example how some people of colour are now invited to take part in discussions but I haven’t seen so many people of colour put in high positions where they can actually bring significant changes.

Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, Robo Polke, 2018

Nora Al-Badri and Jan Nikolai Nelles, Robo Polke, 2018

Another work you did with Jan Nikolai Nelles is Robo Polke, an industrial robot that is reproducing one of Pollock’s paintings. The work is a comment on machine non-creativity. How do you react to all the newspapers/magazines headlines that talk about AI becoming more creative, making music, films, paintings and is stealing the work of creative people?

Usually, when there’s so much hype around it, you realise that there isn’t so much to it. I’m not afraid of the creativity of the machine because I don’t believe that a machine can reproduce anything close to the idea of a soul or of human irrationality. It is true that machines can do extraordinary things. Now with the deep fake technology, we can automate nasty jobs such as the ones done by people in the advertisement. Soon we won’t need real people anymore: we will just need a database of people faces, bodies and movement.

But some people are afraid of losing even awful jobs to robots….

I believe these anxieties are giving society an opportunity to rethink what labour means. There will be many jobs that we cannot shift to machines. In particular, jobs that require compassion and empathy. Taking care of children or of the elderly, for example. This is a question for policy-making and the people, it’s about how right now we identify ourselves only through our work and how society perceives us based on the work we do. Maybe we need to reinvent our identities and rethink what makes us valuable. Hannah Arendt pointed that out some time ago in “Vita activa”.

Is there any upcoming work, event or field of research you’d like to share with us?

In January the exhibition Babylonian Vision will open in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Right now, I’m also doing some research on the question of the representation in datasets of the Global North vs the Global South. Today, even poorer households are not well represented in training datasets of big GAN. It might actually be an advantage in times of surveillance. The rich and the middle-class kind of surveil themselves. The downside, however, is the production of visual and geographical hegemony. I thought I could explore this aspect. When I do my Babylonian datasets this is already something for me that decolonial act because those objects, the ideas of the people of the time are not yet represented in any form of training data.

Scientific research papers are now being published that show that awareness of the problem is growing. But what does it mean if the poorer parts of society and the Global South are not protected? A lot of data is extracted from them but they don’t have the type of data privacy we have in Europe.

I also have a website-based project for Kunst-Werke in Berlin for this spring that deals with the feminine in hacker spaces. Artists from every continent are working on it as a virtual group show that will also be located in physical space.

Thanks Nora!

from Finance

Two Sides of the Border. The region that Mexico and the US share

Two Sides of the Border. Reimagining the Region, edited by architect Tatiana Bilbao, designer Nile Greenberg, designer and curator Ayesha S. Ghosh, in collaboration with Yale School of Architecture.

Lars Müller Publishers writes: Under the direction of Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao, thirteen architecture studios and students across the United States and Mexico undertook the monumental task of attempting to capture the complex and dynamic region of the US/Mexican border. Two Sides of the Border envisions the borderland through five themes: migration, housing and cities, creative industries, local production, tourism, and territorial economies. Building on a long-shared history in the region, the projects covered in this volume use design and architecture to address social, political and ecological concerns along the shared border.

Tent city for separated children, El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juáres, Chihuahua. Image: Iwan Baan, 2018

Two Sides of the Border is the atlas of a unique space crisscrossed and shaped by people, cultures, commerce, labour, money, natural elements, infrastructures and ideas. Officially, a line/border/wall cuts that region in two but as the book demonstrates, the reality is a bit more complex and far more interesting.

The publication combines imagination, rigorous research and a bit of activism. You need imagination to envision the reality and future of a place where the border between Mexico and the US doesn’t exist. The research comes in the form of essays by documentary makers, scholars, architects, architecture students and other thinkers who explore a territory formed by continued exchanges between two nations. But the book is also pervaded by a politically-minded spirit that disputes the current divisive rhetoric about Mexico and the United States.

The book reconciled me with the field of architecture which I’ve neglected a bit over the past few (10??) years. Here is how architect Tatiana Bilbao describes her mindset when working on the Two Sides of the Border book and exhibition deserves to be copy/pasted:

Going back to the time when architects were really thinking about the territory is what we need. I think we have lost that opportunity in the last decades of the twentieth century and the first decades of this century. Architects have moved away from thinking territorially in big movements, with a focus on planning and an understanding of society. They have done so in favor of focusing on the individual project and the potential for garnering acclaim for changing neighborhoods.

I spent a whole weekend reading the book, examining the maps and photos. Here’s a small selection of the works I found most striking:

Meatpacking plant, Union, Ohio. Image: Iwan Baan, 2018

Remittance house, Puebla City, Puebla. Image: Iwan Baan, 2018

Iwan Baan‘s photos occupy about one third of the book. They speak silently about changing landscapes, hybrid architecture and cultures in constant mutations. His aerial photos, for example, show how NAFTA is far more than an economic agreement, it is an agent that physically affected the Mexican landscape and the construction industry with, for example, the development of massive industrial areas around the border.

The presentation by architecture students of projects that imagine the future of the region include Marilyn Reyes’s plan to assist monarch butterflies in their migration by providing the migrant nonhuman creatures with a space to rest in the borderlands between MX and the US; and Hallie Black’s floating building that belongs to the two states and becomes the space to push neoliberalism to its most dehumanising limits.

My favourite essay is (unsurprisingly) the one written by curator Alejandro Luperca who chose 4 artists whose works not only illustrate what it means to produce contemporary art on the border but also had a positive effect on the region and those involved.

Teresa Margolles, Irrigación [Irrigation], 2010

Luperca explains how he crossed the border together with Teresa Margolles with sheets soaked in earth, blood and other bodily secretions recovered from scenes of violence in Juárez. When stopped by the officer, they explained: “We have dirty laundry; we’re going to wash it.” The performance piece consisted of a water truck spraying the highways of Texas between Alpine and Marfa with 5000 gallons of water in which the sheets had been dipped. For the artist, this was a form of returning Texas’s waste products back to Texas — the state that exports the most firearms into Mexico.

Francis Alÿs, (in collaboration with Rafael Ortega, Julien Devaux, Alejandro Morales and Félix Blume), Paradox of Praxis 5, Ciudad Juárez, México, 2013

The shooting of Ciudad Juárez Projects with Francis Alÿs turned out to be far more risky than the video above even suggests. “Stop playing around, kids!” a municipal police officer shouted from a car in downtown Juárez, while the artist was kicking at a football ball in flames. Another patrol car stopped them, the cops pointing their weapons at Alÿs and Luperca while they were filming the stray dogs, the facades and a park where children played on swings in the distance. Their behaviour was too innocent not to look suspicious.

Enrique Jezik, Volveré y Seré Millones (I Will Return and I Will Be Millions), 2017

Enrique Jezik’s Volveré y Seré Millones (I Will Return and I Will Be Millions) project involved the installation of a banner on the Mexican side of the border. The slogan was also visible to the border patrol officers posted on the other side of the bridge. The phrase was first attributed to Túpac Amaru II, the Peruvian indigenous leader of a rebellion against the Spaniards in 1781 who was subsequently brutally executed and dismembered. Before the executioner cut out his tongue, Amaru is said to have pronounced the phrase in both Spanish and Quechua: “Tikrashami hunu makanakuypi kasha.” Ježik connects this emblematic, historical slogan of resistance to the forced repatriation of undocumented migrants.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Border Tuner / Sintonizador Fronterizo, Relational Architecture 23″, 2019. Photo by Monica Lozano

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Border Tuner / Sintonizador Fronterizo, Relational Architecture 23″, 2019. Photo by: Mariana Yañez

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Border Tuner interconnected El Paso and Ciudad Juárez using powerful robotic searchlights and live sound channels for communication across the border. Bridging both sides of the border, the installation emphasises the continuous collaboration that links the two cities and the two countries and provides a counter-narrative to the toxic rhetoric on the border.

Ersela Kripa wrote about her Nephelometry project: a network of low-cost dust sensors along the US–Mexico border. Low-cost sensor bundles installed on both sides of the frontier collect information on air pollution and its movement from one area to another. The mappings of the measurements defy the border wall, highlighting the shared airshed and ecological damage in the border region due to infrastructural and environmental neglect.

Stephen Mueller has a fascinating essay on borderland space and atmosphere. While dusty air and desert conditions are detrimental to the wellbeing of people who inhabit the area or walk through it, they can be exploited by military and security experts. In their eyes, the diverse desert atmospheres of the area constitute ready-made environmental adversaries. Training sites are thus strategically set up in the borderland.

Two Sides of the Border. Reimagining the Region. Book spread

Carla Fernàndez and Pedro Reyes‘s contribution reflects the US countless military interventions and overthrowing of regimes in Central America over the last two centuries. Its violent and destructive (overt or covert) foreign policy often violates international human rights laws and has forced thousands of Central Americans to seek asylum elsewhere. The two maps they created draw attention to the moral and legal responsibility of care owed to these refugees by the United States.

Sarah Lynn Lopez investigated the crisscrossing of objects, dollars and aspirations carried by individuals who lead transborder lives between Mexico and the US. One of the many examples she gives is cars and the impact they had on Mexican landscapes, spaces and infrastructures. In the early 20th century, approximately one out of every three migrants brought a car back with him or her to Mexico. This influx of automobiles led to the construction of roads. Her essay made me want to buy her book The Remittance Landscape.

More photos from the book:

A view across the border from El Paso towards Ciudad Juarez. Image: Iwan Baan, 2018

US-Mexico Eastern beach border. Image Credit: Thomas Paturet

San Ysidro Port of Entry. Image Credit: Thomas Paturet

Union Ganadera Ciudad Juarez. Image Credit: Thomas Paturet

Two Sides of the Border. Reimagining the Region. Book spread

Two Sides of the Border. Reimagining the Region. Book spread

Two Sides of the Border. Reimagining the Region. Book spread

Previously: Transnationalisms – Bodies, Borders, and Technology. Part 1. The exhibition; Book review – Über Grenzen. On Borders; Unstable Territory. Borders and identity in contemporary art; VOTEMOS.US – Mexico decides; Hyper-Border: The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and its Future, etc.

from Finance

Is Brewing Your Own Beer Cheaper Than Buying? Yes, After 261 Beers!

The post Is Brewing Your Own Beer Cheaper Than Buying? Yes, After 261 Beers! appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

I’d like to introduce you to Jeffery, my kegerator…

I built Jeffery back in 2014. He cost about $1,500 in parts to make and is the cornerstone of my homebrew operation. I’ve been brewing my own beer, cider, and hard seltzer for about 7 years now, and while I still like sampling local craft beer and buying the odd case from the store, most of what I drink these days is brewed by yours truly. 🙂 

People often ask me, “Is brewing your own beer cheap? Like cheaper than buying at the store?” In some aspects, yes! In other ways, definitely not. The answer really depends on your brewing methods, quality of ingredients, and the amount your household drinks!

Today I’m going to run through some beer math with y’all, and we’ll compare the cost of homebrewing vs. buying craft beer at the store or at a bar.

Oh, and for those curious… Currently at my house on tap we’ve got a Session IPA, Bavarian Hefeweizen, a pomegranate hard seltzer, and a non-alcoholic cucumber/lime sparkly water. Something for everyone!

How Much Does It Cost to Brew Your Own Beer?

Let’s first simplify by removing gas and electricity from the equation, as well as the time and effort it takes to home brew. (I’ll address that later below)

Brewing Equipment: Beginners will want to start out with a basic brewing kit, which costs about $200. Something like this starter homebrewing kit by Northern Brewer is perfect, and includes all the equipment needed. (Yes, there are some cheaper kits available out there, but trust me – if you truly want to brew *good* beer over many years, you need good quality tools! It’s worth a bit extra $ upfront.)

Recipe Kit: Then we need a beer recipe and ingredients. A recipe kit ranges from about $35 all the way up to $80 for really fancy recipes. In my experience, the quality of your beer depends more on the brewing method rather than the fanciness of the ingredients. For this cost exercise I’m gonna use $45 as the average good craft beer recipe cost.

Beer Quantity: Each batch makes about 5 gallons of beer, which equals about 50 beers of 12oz each. Technically it’s 53 beers, but I like rounding down to 50 because some liquid is lost due to siphoning, spilling, and taste testing! 😉

Total Home Brew Cost Per Beer

First batch: $245, yielding 50 beers = $4.90 per beer.

Second batch: $45 for recipe only = $0.90 per beer.

All beers going forward = ~90 cents per beer.

Again, this is an average cost. There are certainly ways you can reduce this, both the start-up cost and ongoing beer recipe costs. For equipment, try Craigslist! Many people sell or give away their old equipment because they don’t use it, or they’ve upgraded to bigger and better brewing techniques. When I built my kegerator, I gave away my bottling bucket, bottle filler and caps cause I didn’t need them anymore.

For recipe kits, I buy all mine online from Austin Homebrew. They have ongoing specials and seasonal promotions year round. For Halloween last year I got a Pumpkin Ale kit for about $32, and each summer I brew cheap hefeweizens for about $36 per kit. If you’re a master homebrewer, you can also buy single ingredients in bulk, like malted barley, hops, yeast, malt extract etc. and store it at your home.

Several recipe kits – I buy in bulk!

Homebrew vs. Store Bought vs. Brew Pubs Cost

Beer at the store also has a huge range in price. You can grab 30 cans of Bud Light for like $15 these days (but, can we really call that beer? 🤷‍♂️). And some of my favorite high end beers like Delirium Tremens costs $20 for a 4-pack!  BTW… When did the 4-pack become the new 6-pack!?

Anyway, if we’re going with the average, I’d say most beer at the store is about $10 per 6-pack, or $1.67 per beer.

If you frequent bars and brew pubs, the cost of a beer ranges from $4 at happy hours, all the way up to $10 per pint at fancy breweries. Live sporting events are the worst… The most expensive beer I’ve ever bought was $18.75 for a 24oz Golden Road Wolf Pup at Dodgers Stadium a few years back. Ouch!

For regular drinkers, let’s assume we’re buying restaurant and pub beers at an average of $6 per beer.

Now let’s look at the comparisons…

So, Is Brewing Beer at Home Worth It (Financially)?

Purely looking at the finances, yes, the cost per beer is the cheapest for home brew. But, to cover the equipment and start-up costs, you’ve gotta pass the breakeven point of ~260 beers.

If you’re like me (I drink about 1-2 beers per day on average), your initial homebrew kit costs will be covered in less than 6 months! Or, if you and your friends pool money together you can hit this breakeven quite quickly.

Just for giggles, in the comparison above I calculated 1 beer per day x 7 years I’ve been homebrewing. Looks like after 2,557 beers brewed and consumed I’ve saved over $1,700 compared to store bought! That’s enough to cover the cost of Jeffrey! 

But in reality, building and housing a bar at your home is very expensive. I’ve upgraded equipment many times, experimented a lot, wasted entire batches due to spoiling, and given away thousands of pours to neighbors, friends and family.

Brewing for me is a hobby, not a money saver. I like the math and science behind it all. 🙂

A peek inside Jeffrey. The clear hoses are beer lines and blue hoses are for Co2 🙂

How Much Time Does It Take to Brew Your Own Beer?

This is the biggest surprise to a new home brewer. 

I’d estimate 1 batch takes about 8-9 man hours minimum, spread across a 5 week waiting period. Most of the time is spent on the first brew day, like maybe 4-5 hours brewing the wort and starting fermentation. The rest of the time is spent transferring (1 hour), bottling (1 hour), and cleaning/sanitizing everything along the way (2-3 hours).

If you were to add your personal time into the equation, homebrewing is definitely not worth the cost. 8 hours at only $5 per hour adds an extra $40 cost to each batch of beer. That brings the cost to $1.70 per beer and is just as expensive as the store bought beers.  My guess is most of you value your spare time more than $5 per hour!

There are some ways to cut down time, like brewing 2 batches at once (as long as you have the equipment to handle this) or by having a few friends help out on brew day. But, you gotta be careful about sacrificing *quality*. Mistakes are made when you take shortcuts!

No matter how cheap home brewing beer is compared with buying at the store, TIME is the main reason people don’t even try it.

Kegging, Kegerators & Buying Kegs at the Local Brewery

There are a few reasons I upgraded to kegging:

  1. It’s pretty badass to have a kegerator in your backyard.
  2. No more cleaning and recycling bottles! Bottling is the crappiest part of the home brewing process, and kegs save me a few hours per batch.
  3. Better temperature control, carbonation control, and shelf life for the beer.
  4. I can make other fizzy drinks, or buy kegs direct from breweries.
  5. Did I mention it’s badass?

Sometimes I get lazy and will buy kegs of craft beer from Bevmo. But, what I’ve found is that buying a keg of beer is pretty much just as expensive as buying it in cans or bottles. For example:

A 5 Gallon keg of Firestone Walker 805 costs about $75. Divided by 50 beers works out to $1.50 per beer. That’s about the same as what I can buy this same beer for at the store in a 12 pack.

Oh and as far as energy costs — the kegerator mini fridge sucks about $50-60 in electricity each year. It’s not a huge cost but definitely adds up over the years.

Pic from back in my bottling days

Cost to Make Hard Cider, Seltzer Water and “JoelClaw”

Using the kegerator, it’s pretty easy to whip up other types of drinks. Here are some costs…

Seltzer water takes about 10 minutes to make. It’s free. It’s just tap water and CO2 pressure. We can flavor with fruits, oils, or even pour juice in the kegs. Because I have 4 tap handles, it’s handy to always have one non-alcoholic beverage for kids and people who don’t drink alcohol.

Hard Cider takes almost the same time as beer to brew, and costs $15-20 per 5 gallon batch (about $0.40 per cider). Cider is just fermented juice, then you add sugar and champagne yeast. 🙂

Hard Seltzer is becoming really popular at my house! I’m experimenting with my own WhiteClaw replica recipe at the moment (my friends call it JoelClaw). I buy corn sugar, yeast, nutrients and flavors all in bulk to drive the cost down. It’s about $15 per batch – so about $0.30 per drink.  Not bad considering WhiteClaw and other hard seltzers cost just as much as beer these days!

Here are some other questions I hear a lot…

Is Brewing Your Own Beer Hard?

Not really. If you can follow a recipe, you can brew your own beer. There are instructions included in every kit, and YouTube has millions of videos to help. It’s confusing at first learning new words like wort chiller, carboy, and krausen — but that’s what Google search is for!

Physically, you’ll need to be able to lift a bucket with 5 gallons of liquid (~40lbs), and for safety you should be old enough to work a stove.

Is Brewing Beer Legal? And How Much Can You Brew?

Yes, it’s legal to make homemade beer for personal consumption. But you can’t sell any alcoholic beverages without a license.

There’s a limit to how much you can brew at home. It’s 100 Gallons per person per year, or 200 gallons per household per year. I know that seems like a lot, but I am proud to say that I actually hit this limit in 2013! Me and a buddy brewed more than 40 x 5 gallon batches that year — and we gave away most of the beer. 🙂

Funny story actually… One of my neighbors offered us $10,000 as start-up capital to launch our own microbrewery. We turned it down, and this is one of my life’s biggest regrets. More on that another time!

Is Homebrewing Dangerous?

Brewing beer is like manning an open flamed grill. It’s dangerous if you are careless, forgetful, or have little kids running around. Other than that, it’s a harmless hobby.

Whelp, we’ve drifted way off the original topic, but I’m happy to answer any other questions if you’re interested.

Bottom line: Brewing your own beer is cheaper than buying at the store. But unfortunately, it’s very time consuming, which makes it less worth it for most people.

All this typing is making me thirsty! Cheers,

– Joel

The post Is Brewing Your Own Beer Cheaper Than Buying? Yes, After 261 Beers! appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

from Finance

2 Big Investing Mistakes That Actually Made Me Smarter

The post 2 Big Investing Mistakes That Actually Made Me Smarter appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

Back in 2013, I bought 25 shares of Tesla stock. I remember seeing electric cars starting to pop up around my neighborhood at the time and thought they were so cool!

Like most beginning investors, I checked the stock price every 15 minutes after making the trade. (Actually that’s a lie — I probably checked the prices every 5 minutes! 🤣). My $1,350 investment in Tesla started to rise and rise over the following weeks, and I was excited that I had picked a winner!

Just 18 days later, I was so incredibly pleased with an amazing ~70% return that I sold the 25 shares. Making $900 profit in just a few short weeks felt amazing! Woohoo!

Looking back now, however, I realize how much of a fool I was. (Still am in a lot of ways!). Tesla’s stock price has since increased more than 5,000%. If I had just held onto my original 25 shares, my $1,350 investment would now be worth about $106,000.

I bet we all have stories like this. Shoulda woulda coulda.

Advice for My Younger Self About Stocks

I shared this same story with a friend the other day. They laughed and said, “I bet you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self not to sell those shares!”

While, yes, that’s a fun thought, truthfully if I could go back in time and give my younger self advice, I wouldn’t talk about Tesla at all. I would encourage myself not to buy any individual stocks whatsoever.

A lot has happened since 2013. A lot of changes and growth — and I’m not talking about in the stock market — I’m talking about changes and growth within myself. My personal financial education has grown by leaps and bounds. Over the last 7 years:

  • I’ve read 100+ books on investing.
  • I no longer try to time the market.
  • I don’t pick individual stocks anymore. 
  • I don’t get emotional about investing anymore.
  • I don’t invest in things I don’t understand.
  • I think long term. Quick profits don’t interest me anymore.
  • My mindset is slowly shifting to capital preservation.
  • I no longer want to be a mega bajillionaire. Just making $2-3M is plenty enough for my lifestyle.
  • I’m not in a hurry to make money anymore. Time + compounding is my advantage.
  • I don’t look at stock prices every 15 minutes. I try not to check the markets at all.

Going back in time and telling myself that Tesla will grow 5,000% sounds really cool. But it would be WAY cooler if I could go back and teach myself the 10 things I just outlined above. It would probably result in way more than an extra $106,000.

Here’s another big mistake I made. This time in real estate …

Advice for My Younger Self About Real Estate

In 2008, I bought an apartment in Hawaii. This was at the start of the housing collapse, so I thought it was a killer deal.

It started as a house-hack, but I transitioned it to a full rental property as soon as I moved out. From all the numbers I ran, the property should have broken even on cash flow each month.

But, after 2 years of ownership, I realized I was slowly losing money. Not a huge amount — but enough to get me scratching my head at the end of each year. Although I slowly increased the rent over time, it was not enough to cover the constant increase in expenses. HOA fees, leasehold fees, taxes, vacancies, etc… Death by a thousand papercuts.

I should have sold and cut my losses, but I couldn’t. I became emotionally attached. I fell in love with that apartment. I thought that if I held on longer, it would eventually increase in price and make up for all my losses. Houses always increase in price if you hold them long enough, right? 🙅

5 years later, still losing money, didn’t sell. 7 years later, still losing money, didn’t sell. 9 years later, still losing money, didn’t sell.

I really am a stubborn investor. This was a classic sunk cost fallacy.

Finally, after 10 years, I listed and sold the apartment. My rough estimate is that I lost about $50k over that 10 year period. It averages out to losing about $5k each year. It adds up quickly over time!

What I’ve Learned About Real Estate Investing

Same story with my stock trading mistakes… Changing 1 decision from 10 years ago would be freaking awesome. Oh how I wish I could go back in time and slap myself in the face.

But, the real estate knowledge I’ve accumulated since then (much of it learned from this failing property) is worth way more to me than saving $50k on 1 investment. Given the chance to go back in time, I would mostly preach to myself about basic real estate investing principles. Over the last 10 years…

  • I’ve listened to 100+ episodes of the BiggerPockets real estate podcast, read tons of books/blogs about property investing, how cashflow works and managing properties.
  • I went to real estate meet-ups in multiple cities and made friendships with other investors. I have mentors and investing partners now.
  • I don’t get emotional about real estate anymore.
  • I have very specific deal criteria when evaluating new opportunities.
  • I hire other people for tasks I’m not good at (like property management).
  • I scour my monthly management reports and look for errors and things to improve.
  • I evaluate my Return on Equity constantly.
  • I stay away from leasehold properties, HOAs, any anything that is not income producing from day #1.
  • I learned that leverage only works in your favor if you borrow money at a lower rate than the rate your investment is increasing at!
  • I consider my ongoing TIME investment before buying → passiveness is my priority now.

Going back in time and advising myself to not buy this property (or to sell it sooner!) would be nice. But I think having better principles as a young investor would have been way more valuable to me in the long run.

Should Have, Would Have, Could Have

There is nothing we can do to change the decisions we made in the past. And even if we could reverse a few big investment decisions, it would only change our bank balance — not the *more valuable* knowledge that comes from failing so hard.

OK, your turn… tell me some of the missed opportunities and screw ups you’ve had. Better yet, tell me what you’ve learned since then. Going back, would you give yourself individual stock tips, or broader investment principles?

The post 2 Big Investing Mistakes That Actually Made Me Smarter appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

from Finance

Unseen Stars. What if satellites were art objects?

Do you remember when Trevor Paglen, with the help of the Nevada Museum of Art and NASA, launched an inflatable reflective sculpture into space as a temporary satellite? The project had the objective of being the first “purely artistic” object in the night sky that does not have any military, commercial or scientific interest.

The plan was to keep the sculpture in orbit for three months where it would have been visible from the Earth as a bright star, after which it would burn up upon reentry to the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, the deployment was delayed by Trump’s decision to shut down the U.S. federal government in 2018–2019. By the time the 35-day shutdown had ended, the museum’s engineers had lost contact with the satellite. It is now lost in orbit, constituting space junk. Ironically, the episode showed that Paglen was right: it really is difficult to disentangle space endeavours from politico-military interests.

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Some wondered why an artist whose photographic project, The Other Night Sky, tracked U.S. spy satellites in Earth orbit and investigated the political dimensions of space, would dedicate his time to what looked like a frivolous exercise. In an interview with artnet, Paglen was asked whether there was any point in adding a man-made object in the sky if it had no scientific nor military purpose. His answer is worth a bit of copy/pasting action:

“Implicit in that question,” said Paglen, “is the idea that art is not a good thing and that artists should not be participating in this form of production. Why are we offended by a sculpture in space, but we’re not offended by nuclear missile targeting devices or mass surveillance devices, or satellites with nuclear engines that have a potential to fall to earth and scatter radioactive waste all over the place?

The project encouraged people to consider the idea of a space exploration driven by motivations that echo the dreams, the poetry and the questionings about our origins that the night sky has always elicited in the minds of humans looking at the stars.

OGR Open Sessions | Art Corner – Meet the artist Ep. #1 | Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen delved deeper into this idea of space as “a place of possibility” in Unseen Stars, an exhibition postponed, briefly opened at OGR in Turin, now closed and I’m hoping that it will be extended until cultural spaces are finally allowed to open again in Italy.

Paglen collaborated with aerospace engineers to design what he calls “non-functional satellites”. Their formal aspect is meant to suggest what aerospace engineering would look like if its methods had not been guided by nationalism, global surveillance and industrial logics.

Shown alongside structures similar to the scaffoldings used by space technicians and engineers, the mirror surfaces of the sculptures play with the XIXth century industrial architecture of the OGR. They reflect the brick walls and reshape the volumes of the massive hall.

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

I wish the curators had provided more information about a series of military patches, historical documents and photos that were displayed on a table near the entrance. I think they showed the sources of inspiration for the exhibition. That’s on that table that I discovered the story of Echo 1, a passive satellite sent into orbit in 1960. It was launched folded flat and, once in space, it inflated in the shape of a huge balloon. Echo was a simple reflector used to bounce radio waves from one point on the surface of the Earth to another.

Echo 1 in a NASA hangar during an inflation test, 1960

Orbital Reflector Logistics. In Space No One Can Hear You Complain

Trevor Paglen, Unseen Stars, 2020. Installation view at OGR Torino. Courtesy the artist and OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni, Torino. Photo © Melania Dalle Grave / DSL Studio

Trevor Paglen – Unseen Stars, curated by Ilaria Bonacossa with Valentina Lacinio, will remain unseen until better and safer times at OGR – Officine Grandi Riparazioni.

from Finance

Why I’m Transitioning Away from Rental Properties

The post Why I’m Transitioning Away from Rental Properties appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

First, I must preface: this is not an anti-real estate post. I think real estate is an excellent wealth building tool, and don’t want to discourage anyone out there from buying rental properties.

That being said, I’m thinking about downsizing my rental portfolio this year, and don’t have any plans to buy more properties in the near term. A few people reached out and asked why I was selling, so here are my thoughts and feelings on the matter.

I’ll begin with some background info on which hopefully provides a more complete picture of how I got to where I am today.

A Real Estate Focused Upbringing:

My grandpa was a successful realtor. My favorite uncle was a successful mortgage broker. They both owned a handful of rental properties, and I grew up wanting to be like them. I heard from school friends that “most rich people are rich because of real estate”. Whether that’s a right or wrong statement, I didn’t care. I was always focused on owning real estate.

When I was 18, my parents had an opportunity to buy their first investment property. I jumped at the chance to invest with them, and put all my hard earned savings from McDonald’s to work. I was finally the proud owner of ¼ of a little 2 bedroom townhouse. Mum made me manage the books, and I quickly learned how cashflow worked. I loved it.

I remember my uncle sat me down one day when I was 19. He said, “Joel, you should save up enough money to buy out your parents’ share of the rental. Then, save up and buy a full place on your own. Then buy 2 more properties, then another 4 properties after that. Real estate multiplies. This didn’t really make sense to me at the time, but now I understand. I pretty much followed his exact advice, and 15 years later I owned over 20 doors (some myself, some with investing partners).

Anyway, the reason I am so real estate heavy today is because I had tunnel vision growing up. I never learned another way.

There Are Other Ways To Build Wealth?

I owned 3 properties before I really learned how a 401k worked. I had zero knowledge about mutual funds, index funds, or how to evaluate publicly traded companies (still don’t know how to do that actually). I was almost 30 before I began educating myself on other types of investments. 

I started hanging out with a new crowd at work. These people were maxing out their 401ks, always talking about the stock market, and they seemed to be making money hand over fist. (This was in the mid-2010’s). This was the moment I realized I should probably have a broader view about how to build my fortune.

Specifically, I recall 2 moments that humbled me:

  1. I ran some numbers on the very first investment property I bought when I was 18… I compared its performance over 15 years of ownership to how the stock market performed over that same 15 years. Guess what I found? If I invested my cash in the SP500 back then instead of buying that rental, I would have earned almost the exact same ~9.5% YoY return (Comparison figures posted here if you’re interested).
  2. I realized saving up cash for many years to build up a down payment had great opportunity cost. It took me about 7 years to save up 60k for my duplex. If I had been trickling that money into an index fund instead (better yet, inside a tax advantaged account like a 401k), I would be in a much better position today.

While investing in real estate matched my experience, personality and skills earlier in life, I’m not sure it matches my future.

So, here are the list of reasons — some technical, some emotional — why I’m slowly transitioning away from rental properties.

1) I don’t really find it fun anymore

This is listed as reason #1 intentionally. When my heart’s not 100% in on something, it’s very difficult for me to wake up every day and try to be a master at it.

I used to dream about buying large apartment complexes. In my sleep I would create imaginary rent rolls, vacancy rates, maintenance costs, and try to calculate the ROI in my head. (I know, this is really nerdy! But I couldn’t help it. That’s just where my mind drifted.)

Today, I don’t fantasize about real estate any more. I dream about other weird problems. Like, Why are so many people out there in consumer debt? How can I help this situation? Why isn’t personal finance taught as a mandatory subject in middle/high schools? How can I help change this?

2) Trying to better adjust my asset allocation

You probably gathered this from my backstory… I am heavy in real estate holdings and need to play catch up on the stock side of my portfolio. Some experts recommend having a 20% steak in real estate investments (not including your primary home). I’m like over 50% currently.

Since my wife and I don’t have great incomes right now, we can’t contribute huge amounts of new money into the stock market to correct our asset allocation. Selling a few rental properties and reinvesting that money into stocks is a quicker way to lower our overall real estate percentage.

Stephen Covey says, “begin with the end in mind”. If you asked me 10 years ago what my end goal was, I would have told you I wanted to own 100 x rental properties. These days, my perfect retirement portfolio is more like ~$1M in a pre tax IRA, ~$1M in a after-tax brokerage account, and 2 small rental props.

Since my end goal is changing, my strategy is accordingly.

3) It’s more work than I thought it would be

Owning a rental property is not “passive income”. It requires ongoing work. Owning 2 properties requires double that work. Owning 3 starts to bog you down more, and the problem only gets worse from there.

There are certainly systems and automated processes to help you manage scaling, but those systems also require more money and maintenance. All businesses reach a point of diminishing returns, and I’ve hit mine.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not scared of hard work. I actually love working hard. But I’m chewing so much right now I don’t have room to bite into other projects I want to pursue. So I need to spit a little bit out.

Part of this realization — and this is completely my fault — is messing up on property classification. A few properties I bought thinking that they were “B class” and wouldn’t be much effort or hassle. Turns out they are more like “C class” properties, and have more maintenance and issues than I accounted for. Another time I’ll go into the massive differences between A, B, C, and D class properties, and why it matters greatly!

4) I own a couple of sub-par performers

My plan is to keep the best performing properties with the most prosperous outlook, and sell some of the lower ones that give me the most headaches.

They aren’t terrible investments, but they certainly aren’t winners either. My feeling is that I can make the same amount of returns with that money invested elsewhere, for less ongoing efforts.

I’ve asked other investors and mentors about holding onto low-performing investments, and I get split responses… Some people say, “Just wait. If you hold property long enough it’ll eventually make money”. Other investors say, “Get out ASAP. Sitting, waiting, and hoping for appreciation isn’t a good investment strategy”.

I kind of agree with both sides. So I’m going to do both. I’m going to keep a few rentals and sell a few rentals. Only time will tell if I’ve made the right decision. I’m not worried because my wife and I will survive either way.

5) Emotional Simplification 🙂

This might not make sense to some of you, but it’s weighing on me more and more. 

When you own rental properties, you take on a certain amount of responsibility for other people’s livelihood. I have 20+ families living under roofs that I own…  And even though I’m not responsible for them living their life, I can’t help but wonder if there’s something more I could be doing to help them.

Sometimes running a business means turning off your emotional side. It’s about numbers, profit, and what makes sense for the business. But, I am finding it harder and harder to do this. I’ve tried to play the role of ruthless asshole unemotional landlord – and it’s just not me. I don’t like doing business that way.

Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s all the late rent, job loss stories, squatters, and evictions that are getting to me. Offloading some of my properties to another young enthusiastic entrepreneurial investor would be a win/win.

6) My relationship with “cash” is changing

As I’m learning more about investing, earning less income, and slowing down our route to FIRE, my feelings about cash are changing.

I used to LOVE storing up huge amounts of money in my checking account (it gave me freedom and flexibility to jump on new opportunities). But now, I feel the opposite. Any cash I hold is money that isn’t working for me. It’s a burden.

There are 2 problems I have with real estate investing and cash needed:

First, any new real estate purchases require a good sized cash deposit to begin. (yes, I know all about the $0 down options and OPM strategies – they are not for me). Since my wife and I have lowered our income, it’s difficult for us to save up a large deposit. Saving up money in cash over many years means it’s not earning good compound interest in the meantime. I don’t want to do this anymore.

Second, owning rental properties means you gotta have large amounts of cash reserves for each property you own. It feels good when you only own a few places, but as you scale you realize that you’re holding onto multiple emergency funds. I’m uncomfortable with how much cash reserves I’m sitting on.

7) I can always buy more real estate later, and in other ways.

Buy and hold rental properties isn’t the only way to invest in real estate. There are a ton of strategies out there, each with different pros and cons. Private partnerships, money lending, REITS, crowdsourced investing, etc.

I’ve got decades to study, learn, and experiment with different methods of buying more real estate. While none of these excite me right now, that doesn’t mean I can’t change my mind and invest more later.

My reasons don’t need to be your reasons!

Sorry if some of my dot points above sounded complain-y. They are all good problems to have! Hopefully you have insight now into why I’m transitioning away from owning individual rental properties.

But just cause I’m selling stuff, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be buying stuff! Real estate has been a wicked (and fun!) vehicle for me so far in life, and I LOVE helping beginners roll up their sleeves and get involved in new rental projects.

Would love to hear from you guys with similar experiences, or opposing views. Shoot me a note or post in the comments below. 🙂

The post Why I’m Transitioning Away from Rental Properties appeared first on Budgets Are Sexy.

from Finance

Net Worth Report #4 – “Knock at the Door”

Net Worth Report #4 – “Knock at the Door”

Before we get to the net worth update… I came across this funny old post from a couple years back called “Money Trails”…

Basically, it tells you how far your money will let you travel if you line up all your dollar bills, lengthwise, in a single long straight line…

Here’s how it works:

  1. Convert the length of your dollars (6 inches per $1 bill) to feet… $542,510 = 271,255 ft.
  2. Convert feet to miles… 271,255 ft = 51 miles
  3. Google map a radius of 51 miles from your home and pick a location
  4. Imagine laying all those dollars end to end to that location

From my home in Los Angeles, it looks like my money will take me down to my fav surf spot in San Clemente! Or, if my dollar bills could float (and I could walk on water), I could visit Catalina Island or that other tiny little remote island in the middle of nowhere on the left…

Unfortunately, I’d need a net worth of $26,252,150 to make it all the way to Hawaii. Or more than $35 million to visit my brother on the East Coast!

What a fun (and utterly useless) perspective on measuring your net worth!  I’m curious… How far can YOU get with your current dollars? Here’s the original post if you want to check out instructions.

Jan 1 2021 Net Worth Update: $542,510 (+$10,027)

Sweet! Another $10k bump since last month’s report!

Here’s the account summary, as well as growth shown in dollars and percentages for each asset we’re tracking:

December Abnormal Expenses…

We stayed in Los Angeles for Christmas this year to comply with our lockdown orders. Although not traveling saved us a few bucks, we still had some hefty December spending — and a negative savings rate. 🙁 Here are the major things that hurt our wallet:

Tax bill paid for rental property: Technically this $5k bill wasn’t “due” until the end of January, but I hate having outstanding bills just sitting around so we paid it early. This was paid with our property reserve account, and tax isn’t due again until next January.

Christmas presents, a tree, food, and booze: We dropped another $600 or so this past month on presents (+ a tree!), in addition to our November gift spending. Our grocery bill was pretty killer this month ($627) which is quite high for a family of 2. But, some of these were fancy meats and stuff we don’t typically buy, plus contributing to family meals for Christmas. My birthday was on Dec 30th and my wife made a special beef wellington with expensive filet mignon – delicious and worth every dollar!

Lower income for school holidays: My wife isn’t paid as a salaried employee, so we miss paychecks over school holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks total over 3 weeks of missing pay! This is one of the reasons we sit on a large emergency cash fund, to see us through dips in income like this. Summer break hurts the most, which we’ll tackle somehow in a few months when the semester is coming to an end.

December good stuff and wins!

Stimulus payments, $1200: We got our stimulus payments on Dec 31st – a nice little way to end 2020. We qualify for these checks because we have less than $150k in combined income.

Teacher appreciation funds: Because my wife is such a kickass teacher, the families and students gifted her a total of $365 in vouchers and cash this Christmas! Thank you to all you parents out there who gift money to schools and teachers. I can’t tell you how well this is received by teachers and how much it makes them feel appreciated. THANK YOU.

Trash turned to treasure: Out on a morning run, I came across a compost tumbler that someone was throwing away. I snapped a pic, created a free ad on an app called OfferUp, and someone picked it up a few hours later for $40!

My conscience got the best of me the very next day…  I noticed more free items and furniture out front of that same house and learned the people there were moving houses. I can’t imagine how much it sucks moving homes during a pandemic, so I ended up giving the $40 to the family as a moving present.

This is why I’d be a horrible business owner – I have a problem giving my profits away. At least I have a fun story to tell, and maybe some good karma down the road somewhere. 😉

Detailed Asset Breakdown:

CASH Accounts: $37,265 (-$1,954): We skipped a paycheck from my wife’s job this month, and also transferred some cash into our HSA account. This cash balance is trending downward, which is OK as it’s still higher than what we really need for our emergency fund.

Rental Property and Reserve Account: $233,228 (-$4388): We paid our property tax bill which accounts for $5,185 of this expense. Our positive cashflow was $797, which is the difference between $1,975 in rental income minus $1178 in total expenses. 🙂

IRA – Rollover: $137,226 (+$5,903): The increase in this account was solely from market growth and reinvested dividends. Someone asked me about why I don’t do a backdoor conversion of this account over to our ROTH… and the answer is that we plan to in future years. More to come on this topic!

IRA – Roths: $70,429 (+2,663): I’m excited to contribute to these Roths again in January for 2021. The plan is to transfer funds from our joint brokerage over these accounts to begin tax-free growth as early as possible within the year.

Joint Brokerage Account: $177,454 (+$4,015): I made some large buy/sell trades within this account in late December. Due to our low income in 2020, we were in a good situation to do large capital gains harvesting. Although we’ll pay a small amount of state income tax, we’ll pay 0% in capital gains tax and reset our cost basis for a bunch of stocks. At some point I’ll do a deeper dive into this account and explain what all that crap I just wrote actually means.

HSA: $2,850 (+$994): The increase here came from an after-tax contribution of $887.50 (prorated contribution for 2020) and the rest was market growth.

New 401(k) at work: $6,457 (+$2,196): This 401k has been only open for 3 months, so I’m proud that there’s already $6k in there. I get zero company matches, so this is mostly personal savings and a tiny bit of market growth.

Breakdown of Liabilities

Rental Property Mortgage: -$122,278 (+$240): If my calculations are correct, this mortgage balance will be less than $120k at the end of 2021 if I just leave everything alone. I could speed things up by making extra payments myself… but why do this when the tenants are paying it down naturally each month?

Credit Card Balances: -$121 (+$358): Other than this small credit card balance, my wife and I have no other consumer debt. 🙂

Overall, 2020 was a very good *financial* year for my wife and I. Since we only started sharing these monthly net worth reports in October last year, I can’t really give a complete and full 12-month comparison and overview. Something I promise I’ll do when I’ve got enough data!

How were your updates the past month? Share your milestones and juicy details in the blog comments — boasting is heavily encouraged! 🏆🏆🏆

Have a great weekend, peeps!

– Joel

from Finance

How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Learning to Fight in a World on Fire

How to Blow Up a Pipeline. Learning to Fight in a World on Fire, by Andreas Malm, an associate professor of human ecology from Lund University, Sweden.

Publisher Verso Books writes: The science on climate change has been clear for a very long time now. Yet despite decades of appeals, mass street protests, petition campaigns, and peaceful demonstrations, we are still facing a booming fossil fuel industry, rising seas, rising emission levels, and a rising temperature. With the stakes so high, why haven’t we moved beyond peaceful protest?

In this lyrical manifesto, noted climate scholar (and saboteur of SUV tires and coal mines) Andreas Malm makes an impassioned call for the climate movement to escalate its tactics in the face of ecological collapse. We need, he argues, to force fossil fuel extraction to stop–with our actions, with our bodies, and by defusing and destroying its tools. We need, in short, to start blowing up some oil pipelines.

Offering a counter-history of how mass popular change has occurred, from the democratic revolutions overthrowing dictators to the movement against apartheid and for women’s suffrage, Malm argues that the strategic acceptance of property destruction and violence has been the only route for revolutionary change. In a braided narrative that moves from the forests of Germany and the streets of London to the deserts of Iraq, Malm offers us an incisive discussion of the politics and ethics of pacifism and violence, democracy and social change, strategy and tactics, and a movement compelled by both the heart and the mind. Here is how we fight in a world on fire.

Two protesters use bamboo lock-ons to block the road outside the Newsprinters printing works at Broxbourne, Hertfordshire. Photo: PA, via: The Independent

In 2016, climate activists disrupted the flow of crude oil from Canada to the US by turning off valves on North America’s pipeline system. They justified their action by saying that U.S. policymakers and oil companies had failed to address climate change and that their act of sabotage was “the only way we get their attention. All other avenues have been exhausted.”

COP after COP, march after march, the climate movement has grown into the most dynamic social movement in the Global North. And yet, investments in fossil fuels haven’t slowed down significantly, Australia continues to plan mines and airports in areas that should be protected, plants are still burning coal, meat and dairy consumption –organic or not- shows no sign of slowing down, etc. Even the sales of SUVs, notoriously toxic for the planet, are going strong. The author actually explains how he and a group of “Indians of the Concrete Jungle” have gone through Ostermalm, Oslo’s most affluent neighbourhood, to deflate the tyres of SUV, leaving leaflets to explain the gesture was not a personal attack but a way to bring attention to the potentially devastating effects that SUVs have on climate change and on other citizens’ health. They even published manuals on how to unscrew the cap on the valve and deflate a tyre, adding that the most important rule is to avoid the vehicles used by artisans, workers or by people with disabilities, etc. The only targets being the SUVs that have no practical purpose beyond flaunting the wealth of their owners. Apparently, sales of SUVs in Sweden dropped that year.

Is it ever acceptable to resort to sabotage and “controlled” violence if the cause is just, urgent and ignored after decades of peaceful protests and other mellow tactics? Can you justify smashing the kind of property -pipelines or SUVs- that harm our future and our planet?

A woman peers through a shattered window in Holloway prison after the explosion in December 1913. Photograph: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images, via: The Guardian

Not everyone has the time nor the luxury to do a sit-in. Sometimes, as episodes in history have shown, non-violent disruption leads you nowhere. The emancipation of slaves from the French colonial rule in Saint-Domingue (now Haiti), for example, was the result of slave uprising that plunged the colony into civil war. The Haitian Revolution was a bloody affair but it ended in 1804 with the independence of the country. The suffragettes didn’t just politely ask influential men to give them the right to vote. After decades of patient pressure on Parliament that yielded nothing, they added window-smashing, rock-throwing, arson, letterbox torching and other types of property destruction to their arsenal of tactics. They were, however, careful to attack only empty building to avoid causing any death.

As the author notes, Extinction Rebellion, a model of civil resistance, did more for the climate emergency than a thousand peer-reviewed papers. The movement has gained the respect of the wider public because of the gentleness of its protests. But why, asks Andreas Malm, should the fight against fossil fuel require fewer efforts than the fight for human rights? Why shouldn’t non-violent protests be aided by militant action? After all, what is at stake is huge. Climate injustice knows almost no bounds, especially in you live in the Far North, on small islands and in other areas already heavily impacted by a climate change your culture played almost no part in causing.

Turning off pipelines, deflating SUVs tyres and other property vandalisms are violent moves but Malm presents them as defensive acts that can deter investments in CO2 emitting industries, save wildlife and human lives and, in the longer term, might reduce violence. Extractive and polluting industries are the cause of far more direct and indirect violence than any form of eco-motivated sabotage.

The violence discussed in the book is never indiscriminate. It is sabotage and vandalism that come as a last resort. That shouldn’t threaten human or animal life. That never target resources and materials from which people depend for subsistence. Vandalising a super yacht is one thing, Malm notes. Poisoning someone’s groundwater or burning a family’s grove of olive trees will never be acceptable.

Whether or not you agree with the author’s suggestion that climate activism should move beyond the politics of non-violence, you’re bound to find that his book constitutes a stimulating intellectual exercise. It certainly occupied my thoughts and many of the conversations I had over the past few weeks.

How to Blow Up a Pipeline was finished in late March 2020, when COVID started sending the environmental cause into hibernation. How will the climate movement rebound after the pandemic? Will it be invigorated by all the debates about “the world after”? Will we be more resolute than ever to do what is right for the planet and its non-human inhabitants? Or will business as usual prevail, with just a bit of clever greenwashing here and there?

Image on the homepage: PERN.PL, via Warsaw Institute.

from Finance

Upcoming online classes: Art & politics for plants

Public announcement!

Mathieu Asselin, Monsanto. A Photographic Investigation, 2013

Charlotte Jarvis, Blighted by Kenning, 2011

Next month, I’ll be giving online classes titled Art & Politics for Plants. On plant geopolitics, phytoengineering and uncanny crops with the School of Machines, Making & Make-Believe.

While I did my best to sideline the humans as much as possible in last year’s animal classes, homo sapiens will play a bigger role in the plant classes and it won’t always be a glorious one:

Western cultures tend to see nature as a vast reservoir of services and resources to own and capitalise on. Plants, in particular, are often regarded as mere tools to exploit for food, medicine, fuel, industry and ornamental purposes. Over the years, however, this purely utilitarian viewpoint has revealed its calamitous consequences, marginalising communities, fostering inequality and threatening biodiversity and the survival of the animal world.

Time has come to co-evolve in a more sympathetic and mutually beneficial way with the most important (in terms of biomass at least) inhabitants of this planet.

During the weekly sessions, we’ll use art & sometimes also design to talk about biopiracy, GMOs, deforestation, mass extinction and de-extinction, land grabbing but we will also look at neurobotany, biohacking, green colonialism, the holobiont, office plants (they are plants too!), space farming and the ambiguous role played by invasive species.

In my wildest (and most ambitious) dreams, the class would be beautiful and a bit troubling. Like the film Little Joe:

Jessica Hausner, Little Joe (trailer), 2019

Hicham Berrada, Mesk Ellil, 2015-2019. Installation view at Punta della Dogana, Venezia 2019 © Palazzo Grassi. Photo Delfino Sisto Legnani & Marco Cappelletti

Carsten Höller and Stefano Mancuso, The Florence Experiment, 2018. Photo via La Repubblica

Plants appear to overrun largely uninhabited apartment buildings in south-west China’s Sichuan province, September 2020. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock, via The Guardian

Each week, the class will give a broad overview of the debates, state of knowledge and possible controversies surrounding a specific theme. The survey will be accompanied by many examples of artworks and design projects that illustrate, contest or investigate that same topic.

There will be space for questions and conversations.

The online classes will be taking place over the course of five weeks, two hours each week. The first session will be an informal “getting to know each other” event during which i will also be taking notes of any special curiosity and interests participants might have.

Classes are live: you can directly interact with the instructor as well as with the other participants from around the world. Classes will also be recorded for playback if you are unable to attend that day.

The school is offering a limited number of pay-what-you-can tickets to take part in this class. Preference given to women, POC, LGBTQ+ and persons from underrepresented communities who would otherwise be unable to attend.

This way to join!

from Finance