Keep it Simple: Buy Low and Sell High to Make Money

The idea of getting results through “passive” income is something that is popular in some personal finance circles.  I think there’s something about this that’s rooted in the human interest in getting something for nothing.  In this case, nothing means no time or effort expended.

Frankly, that sounds quite appealing.  I’m a believer in the notion that time is money, or actually more valuable than money since you can’t make more of it.  The less time we have to invest in something while still getting results, the better deal it can be for us.

Back to the “passive” concept.  Sometimes, I think there is a tendency for many of us to want to put things on autopilot.  For example, focusing on index funds and avoiding constant stock trades.  I like doing this, though admittedly there are transaction costs that play a role in my decision.  But the point is that we’re often looking for ways to make money without incremental effort.

But can we make more money for ourselves by simply taking a more active approach rather than a passive one?

Sometimes, maybe not.  Other times, possibly.  I think it comes down to remembering that when it comes to investing or making extra money, it’s often a matter of thinking about the concept of “buy low and sell high”. 

Here are a few examples of how buy low, sell high can be applied to make money:

Stocks

Yes, this may be the first thing many folks think about when it comes to buy low, sell high.  Yet, many of us also focus on index funds, dollar cost averaging, and other “autopilot” type of tactics.  I’ve been fine with that, as it allows me to focus time on other things.

However, there is something to be said about how the market does provide us with potential opportunities.  There is often some seasonality in monthly stock market returns, which may not occur all the time but trends seem to be there.  For example, a “June Swoon” is not a new phenomenon for stocks.  Additionally, sometimes markets overreact to bad news.  While risky, there are times we can actually strategically buy low and sell high.

Precious Metals

After years of being somewhat low profile, metals saw a resurgence of interest several years ago.  Many people likely made quite a bit of money buying gold low and selling at higher price points later.  Additionally, attention also went toward investing in silver, which showed great price appreciation before coming back down.  Is it a buying opportunity for metals today? Whatever one’s opinion it’s clear that people have made money buy strategically applying the buy low, sell high approach instead of passively buying and holding.

Real Estate

As we know, real estate surged in value in the early-to-middle part of the last decade, with fantastic year over year.  Then the bottom seemingly fell out, and prices plummeted.  If people bought low, when prices were at their nadir, it could have been a money making opportunity.  Around here, I’ve heard stories of people competitively bidding for homes again, and prices seem to be rebounding.  Unfortunately, so do interest rates as well.  Regardless, this could have been a good buy low, sell high opportunity.

Cars

Here is where we deviate from traditional investments.  Some people actually do make money buying and selling used cars, including different types of them.  Classic cars can sometimes be bought and sold for profit, and I’ve even heard of someone buying a hybrid car and selling it for a profit later as gas prices surged.  Again, examples of buy low and sell high.

Collectibles

Some collectibles have more clearly agreed upon market value than others.  Often times, some collectibles can have extra value for someone who really appreciate them for whatever reason, while having much less value for others.  For examples, a collection of Elvis Presley records from the 1950′s would have great value for some people but very little for others like myself.  There could be good opportunities to buy such things from people like me, and sell to hard core fans for much more.

Bottom Line – sometimes by getting out of the passive/autopilot/low effort mindset, we might actually make more money and get potentially out-sized returns.  No guarantees, but sometimes active effort yields extra results.

My Questions for You:

Do you ever think about the concept of buy low, sell high in terms of money-making opportunities?

Or, are you more of a buy-and-hold, or autopilot type of investor?

Can you think of any other situations in which you’ve taken advantage of buying low and selling high?

You are a Salesperson!

Do you consider yourself a salesperson?

While some people have that actual occupation (not me, by the way), I’m guessing that most of us would answer “no” to that question.  Our day job, if we have one, is probably something functionally different than that, and doesn’t involve the word “sales” in it.

So the first answer is no, a good number of us are not technically salespeople.

When thinking about it further, I would say the bigger picture answer is yes.  At some level, everyone is a salesperson.

I think we are always selling ourselves, whether we consciously realize it or not.  I don’t always think about it in these terms, and frankly I haven’t thought it about it a whole lot in general anyway.  But the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is the case.  We really are selling it at all times.

Here are two examples:

Work

Let’s say your job is not directly involved in sales, as we alluded to before.  You’re still indirectly selling.  Ultimately, you have to sell yourself internally to your boss and his or her bosses.  Not only that, but you must sell yourself in different ways and for different reasons to your peers and subordinates.

Perceptions and reality can often be two different things.  To that end, how you sell yourself can play a role in your chances to succeed and earn income.

Personal Life

Suppose you are dating someone, or looking for Miss or Mr Right.  You’re not going to dress in your old, worn out clothes.  You’re not going to show your, shall we call them, “developmental” traits.  Rather, you will conscientiously put your best foot forward.  In effect, you’re selling yourself in order to create the best impression and to attract a good match for you.

Bottom Line: I’m sure when we think about it, we could probably come up with many other examples of when we selling ourselves.  This can be the case in many aspects of our lives.  One can say that at least on some level, you are a salesperson!

My Questions for You:

Have you ever considered premise that we’re all salespeople.  What do you think?

Do you have any examples of when you’ve had to be a salesperson, unrelated to your work (like examples above)?

Are You What Your Record Says You Are?

There is a quote attributed to a football coach that says “you are what your record says you are“. It’s one that might apply to the sports world, but I’ve been thinking that it can also be relevant to personal finance.

Let’s say that John Doe is somebody who thinks that he will be future multi-millionaire.  He just simply envisions that he will be very successful financially over the long-term, and is going to get there one way or another.  That’s the dream, and he feels like he can do it. Might as well dream big, and as the saying goes: where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Now, let’s take a look at John’s current financial situation.  He’s 30, and completed his college education early in his 20′s.  He has a good job, and has advanced a bit in his career – but he’s not on the fast track to being a CEO.  He still has some student loans outstanding, and has a small amount of credit card debt that he hasn’t gotten around to completely paying off.  He also has a mortgage on a snazzy new condo, and just bought a new car a year ago.  He works hard, plays hard, and likes to live it up.

Do you see the disconnect between his vision of his future, and what his past and current financial situation has demonstrated?

Here is another question: if you were to invest in John, do you think that based on what you have seen, that he’s a slam dunk to be rich like he thinks he will be?

I think that this same concept can be applied to people in a wide range of situations and with different self-perceptions of financial health.  Some people just believe that they will be able to retire someday, despite being living deeply in debt.  Others don’t care much about their careers.  Maybe some others just think that they will marry someone with financial potential.  Either way, they just think that their ship will sail in someday.

Well, instead of waiting for the ship to come in (it won’t), it’s probably better to take personal responsibility for one’s finances.  Even further, it’s good to critically evaluate what your past behavior indicates about what you’ll be likely to do in the future.

Now, that’s not to say that people can’t learn and change. Of course we can, and there are tons of inspirational stories out there about people who turn things around and reach their goals.  Those with a thirst for knowledge, and the desire to actually apply that knowledge through hard work and discipline, can get there.

I think that before this can happen, it’s important to engage in critical thinking and learn about ourselves and our habits.  It’s like many other things – if what you did before didn’t work, it probably won’t work in the future.  Because what we are today financially is a reflection of our past financial habits and priorities.

So, back to the question: are you what your record says you are? I say we are, but by learning and applying knowledge going forward, we can succeed and get a great, winning record so to speak.

My Questions for You:

What do you think of the notion that you are what your record says you are?

Why do you think some people have a disconnect between their past behavior, and their perceptions of their financial aptitude?

Do you agree that people can change their circumstances by critically examining past behaviors?

 

Higher Salary or Better Experience?

When I was younger, in grad school, I was fortunate enough to have a number of internship offers. These were major companies, Fortune-500 types.  It was one of those things that I somewhat took for granted at the time, though now I look back and can appreciate how a better economy could bring nice opportunities for people.  What would be simply amazing today wasn’t that unusual at all back then.

Anyway, when I was evaluating the offers, I had different variables to consider.  For one thing, each job was in a different city. In fact, the four positions were in three different states.  This might matter, as someone could ultimately try to work for that company, so you might want to think about the long-term fit of that area for you.  Another variable to think about was the industry I would be joining.  The type of business in which you work can have a big impact on your career direction, even if the purported functional experience might be classified as being the same.

The one that I also paid attention to at the time was salary.  Now, of course salary matters for most of us.  Would you go into work every day if they all of a sudden paid you 30% less? Well, maybe – but you would be actively looking to get out and get your market value ASAP.   There is a point in time when this starts to matter more and more.

That being said, when you are in the early stages of your career, I think your salary matters a bit less than quality of experience.  You have the ability to take a few risks, and the latitude to explore what you like and in what direction you want to go.  Of course, you can do this later too, but it’s much easier when younger and new in your career.

I actually should not have focused so much on the salary of the internship at the time.  It really did play a role in my decision, as it felt good to get paid more. Simple as that.  However, that was only a 14-week time period, and certainly didn’t define my career.  It did turn out to be a really good experience that I learned a lot from, thankfully.  But I now realize that salary wasn’t truly important in the long-run.

Later in life, salary does matter more. Sure, it might be because you’re older and have more personal responsibilities.  However, it also matters because your salary is often a basis of how the market values you.

I say this based on what I’ve seen from people looking for jobs.  One question that is asked, of course, is something to the effect of “what is your current salary?”  This establishes, or to some degree anchors in the person’s mind, what your current market value is.  If you get a job offer, they might try to match your salary or perhaps increase by some percentage.

What Do You Think?

At what point do you think that salary becomes more important than experience, or vice-versa?

Have you or anyone you know had to make such a decision in the past?

What things do you look for when considering a potential job?

10 Ways to Make Extra Money

A nice way to supplement regular income can be to find ways to make extra cash.  It’s fun to get some money in ways that don’t involve the main source of income, as it often ends up being excess that we weren’t counting on to begin with.  Extra money almost seems like a bonus of sorts!

Here are 10 ways to earn extra money

  1. Tutoring.  Surprised to see this first? Well, if you’re reading a personal finance blog, you’re likely interested in self-improvement and open to learning.  Why not pass on some knowledge to others who might need help?  Perhaps you can feel good about helping others, while earning some supplementary money as well.  $10 to $20 per hour might be possible, you never know.
  2. Freelance writing.  If you have specialized knowledge, or are simply passionate about a subject, you might be able to land a gig as a freelance writer.  Again, if you’re reading this personal finance blog, you probably have an interest in money and related topics. If you have writing ability, maybe somebody out there has a need for some help? Perhaps you could get $15 to $25 per article, who knows?
  3. Selling non-traditional ads.  I spoke about this in a post about how to monetize anything, where different ideas of selling “ad space” were discussed. For example, selling space on your car, side of a home, etc.  Sometimes thinking out of the box a bit, and doing something non-traditional, can yield extra money. There is value to the number of eyeballs and impressions seeing an ad, even if through such alternative channels!
  4. Participating in market research.  This might be more lucrative depending on your line of work or specialized knowledge, but there are opportunities to get paid to participate in market research.   I did this in college once, getting some money to answer questions for perhaps 30 minutes of time.
  5. Walking dogs.  I wouldn’t find this to be fun, and don’t have time for this anyway the way my life is structured. Plus, I’m allergic to them:)  However, if you have the free time, like pets, and wouldn’t mind a little extra exercise, perhaps you could try this.
  6. Yard work.  This is something I have outsourced, as I prefer to do other things with my time.  With plenty of people like me out there, why not take advantage of the situation and do some outdoors work? If you like time outside and can do things quickly, perhaps you can make a little extra cash with a short time commitment.
  7. Mystery shopping.  I’ve never done this and don’t know anybody who does this, but from what I understand there are people who can earn a little bit of money on the side doing this.
  8. Selling blood or plasma.  Okay, another thing that I don’t want to do.  Plus, I don’t think you can do this all that frequently.  But if you would like a little bit of extra cash, this is one source that might be good for a few bucks on a periodic basis.
  9. Entering sweepstakes.  This might not directly result in money, but there are some giveaways/sweepstakes/contests that might offer pretty good chances to win.  Some bloggers offer such contests, and the number of entrants might be surprisingly low considering the quality of some prizes.  Maybe you could turn around and sell your prize, or just save money you could have spent if you had bought it instead.
  10. Blogging.  Hey, you might earn a few bucks this way! J  If it’s something you might do for fun as a hobby anyway, maybe you could make a little bit of money in the process?

My Questions For You

How many of these things have you done, or would you actually consider doing, in order to earn extra money?

Are there any on the list that you just have no interest whatsoever in doing?

Do you have any other legit ideas for ways to earn some extra income?

7 Steps to Protect and Grow Income

Personal finance can cover a broad range of topics, including saving, investing, debt management, and career.   I definitely discuss them all here, along with other money-related topics.

Having said that, the thought came to mind that it’s good to sometimes ground ourselves in what’s important, how the process works, and in what order things occur.  This got me thinking about how the category of income generation – be it from career, business, etc – is a foundation to our overall financial success.

Think about it, working backwards: before we can invest anything, we need money to invest.  This is possible if we have savings.  If we have savings, it means that we needed to have income exceeding our expenses. In order for that to happen, we needed to be making money in the first place!

Thus, as the foundation of our finances, we need to be earning money and generating income.  Now, people that sponge off others or let others take care of them might not be attuned to this part, but doesn’t it make sense? We need income before we can save anything, and then in turn invest.  Income is the engine that drives our finances.

Along those lines, I came up with the following 7 steps to protect and grow income:

  1. Get a good education.  Enough of the notion that education is optional, or not important anymore. That’s crazy.  Some people question whether it’s best to choose college or entrepreneurship, but I say that education is foundation for success and that many folks are looking for shortcuts.
  2. Continuously learn.  It’s not enough to get a degree or even advanced degree(s) and say that we are done. Rather, we need to keep learning every day, and embrace the idea that every day brings new experiences and new knowledge to acquire.
  3. Protect your career.  Make sure you don’t take your job for granted.  Work to over-deliver and make yourself indispensible.
  4. Grow your career.  Your career is probably what brings in the flow of money. If we want to increase cash flow, we need to go beyond protecting our job.  Rather, we need to look for ways to become really good at what it is we do, get attuned to how things really work in business (or whatever field you’re in), and be savvy networkers.
  5. Invest in health.  If you’re not healthy, you either won’t be able to work or your ability to successfully do so will be compromised.  This happens as people get older, but many younger people simply don’t think of this or brush it off as a “someday” kind of event.  Someday probably comes quicker than we realize if we don’t pay attention, so it’s important to be healthy and ideally energetic too.  Even proper sleep and money can be related!
  6. Be insured.  What if you can’t work, and can’t make money? Depending on what the issue is, insurance might be a financial life saver.  You may want to spend the proper time focusing on protecting against losses – with disability insurance as a good example.
  7. Think entrepreneurially.  At some point, it’s important to remember that we are all essentially unofficial “business entities” of our own, even if individual employees.  We sell our professional services for wages.  We are the product. We need to be able to keep that mindset and thrive as people, rather than purely thinking of ourselves as simply employees.  Money can be made through different business structures with you playing different roles, be it employee or owner.  Being flexible, adaptable, and ready to operate in different environments is important.

My Questions for You

Do you agree that income generation and cash flow are the foundation of personal finance success?

What are your thoughts on the list? Do you follow all of these?

Do you have any additional tips or thoughts to add, on protecting and growing income? I’m interested in what you have to say, and what you can share with readers.

Money Tips for Young People Starting Out

Learning from experience is smart. We should all learn from mistakes as well as simply pick up knowledge and wisdom as we get older. That said, if we can get good advice early on – AND follow it – we should be ahead of the game.

Along those lines, I think it’s good to be able to offer financial advice to people younger, even if old enough that they’re just out of college and just starting out. Some of you might be at that stage now, or may have family at that point in life.  I came across an article on US News that offers some good advice for those starting out, and below I’ll share the tips as well as my own opinion on each.

  1. Save one-third of your income.  You know, at first glance this seems really hard to do for most people just starting out.  I wouldn’t have been able to do it. However, I also made choices that made such an accomplishment unlikely – the primary one being graduating college and then moving to another city rather than going back to my home area. Living at home after college, if that’s an option, can truly help someone save one third of income. In many cultures and/or families, it’s no big deal and very normal to be living with Mom and Dad at that age. Why does it have to be weird and seem like freeloading? I say that despite not doing that myself.
  2. Don’t be stingy with career-related investments.  I tend to agree with this. There are people that tend to think that once a person graduates from college, the need to invest in continual learning is over.  Well, that’s not true, as we need to keep learning to make money. This could mean spending money to invest in yourself to get an edge in your career, or give you time to do so.
  3. Cultivate ambitious dreams.  Again, I agree. With life ahead of you, there are so many possibilities. Why not try to shoot for the stars? If you land a bit lower, it’s still better than where you’ll end up if you aim low. It’s doesn’t get easier when you get older, as you have less time and more responsibilities.
  4. Pay off all but the cheapest student loans early.  Makes sense to me.  After reading about senior citizens with student loans, I think it’s a great idea to eradicate debt and work on becoming debt-free. There’s freedom involved in that situation!
  5. Don’t wait to start investing until you have extra money.  The earlier you start, the better off you’ll be in the long run.  The power of compounding on money is staggering, check it out!
  6. Give back on your own terms.  I agree on both parts of that: giving, and on your own terms.  I of course support helping others, as I’ve gone over here countless times. That said, nobody should force you into it and often times we might want to be careful to make sure that an organization we give to will actually use our money in a way we are comfortable with.

In addition to those tips provided, I have four more than came to mind, to make a combined list of 10 tips.  Here are my own additional four tips:

  1. Don’t give in to financial peer pressure.  People of all ages can be tempted to keep up with the Joneses. I would suggest not worrying about competing with others in terms of how much money they seem to have, where they live, and so on. Be aware of what’s possible, and be inspired. But don’t give in to pressure to keep up appearances, and don’t get sidetracked with unnecessary social competition
  2. Behave responsibly and be nice to people.  Besides being the right thing to do, it’s also smart not to be obnoxious.  With people getting googled by employers, and social media being used as a platform for many things, it’s best to think about ramifications if the world knew about what transgressions you commit. Because, that’s potentially but a few clicks away.
  3. Don’t waste time on Mr. or Miss Wrong.  Easier said than done, I realize :) Of course, many of us have seen people spend inordinate time when young dating or chasing the wrong person. I heard a story of a friend of friend who turned down a massive job offer in order to stay with someone who was dating. Who, of course, kicked him to the curb within 2 weeks. Ouch! Big money and career opportunity gone in a flash.
  4. Build your network.  Don’t burn bridges, build them instead.  The world is getting smaller, so it’s more important than ever to be a giver and think proactively with your network.

Monetize Anything!

So many opportunities to monetize!

There is a lot of talk online, particularly among those owning blogs, about monetization. The idea that one can monetize a blog is alluring to many newcomers to the blogging world, and they often get into it for those reasons. Of course, many give up after a few months when they aren’t happy with the 50 cents they’ve made to date :). However, for those who stick around and work at it, monetization can happen, as evidenced by the success of many site owners.

This got me thinking that with the focus on making money online, there might be other areas that we can look to generate side income.  These possibilities don’t have to necessarily come from websites. Rather, we can look to our everyday life to create ways to make some extra money!

Now, I’m writing this half-jokingly, coming from the perspective of amusement in the monetization craze, as well as genuine interest as well. With that in mind, here are some present and future ideas that just came to mind regarding monetizing anything:

  • Car.  Instead of buying a nice, name brand car, perhaps buy an old, cheap, yet reliable enough car. Then, look at your car as one big advertising vehicle – literally. No free bumper sticker messages, now you can start slapping ads all over the car! Sell a client on the number of eyeballs that will be seeing their ad as you drive each day, week, and month.
  • Home.  In some cities I’ve seen older apartment (or condo) buildings, which happen to be situated by a highway, with ads on them. Whether painted or affixed, these ads just might be generating some cash flow each month. Now, I sure as heck wouldn’t want a sign on my home, but if you don’t care – and you own the property – it’s an option!
  • Clothes.  Go to a business, and tell them that you’ll be glad to wear a coat with their logo on it. Maybe they will give you one on hand, or you can “rent” ad space by putting their logo on it. For example, maybe a restaurant could give you 10 free meals for affixing their logo to their coat. Or, maybe another business could pay you a certain dollar amount per month for advertising in this way? Hard to enforce and hard to keep from being laughed at doing this. I wouldn’t do it J But hey, it’s a potential monetization vehicle, right? After all, when people see us wearing clothes with a brand logo on it, it’s free advertising for the company, right?
  • Email Signature.  If you send a fair amount of personal emails, maybe you could sell some ad space there? Set up a signature for your email, and offer a client the chance to put a company logo or url there. Hey, maybe they’ll get a targeted audience?
  • Voicemail. If someone calls, maybe your voicemail message can say “this message was sponsored by Company XYZ, the purveyor of the finest in Product 123”, before getting to your standard greeting.  Yet another way to sell out!
  • Tweets. There are people that do this already, getting paid for tweets. I haven’t done this, but think it’s an interesting concept that’s apparently working well for a number of people.  Worth considering, perhaps?
  • Texts.  Some people sent out a ton of texts every month. If you do, and can give up a small percentage of available space on each text for a sponsored message, couldn’t that be worth it. Your friends and family would understand :)

Some of this might be going way too far, at least based on what I would actually do. But if we think about it, advertising space can take on many forms!

My Questions For You

Are you actively trying to monetize online?

Would you ever consider any of these other alternative approaches to monetizing?

Can you think of any other wacky, out of the box ways to monetize and make a little extra money via advertising?

Keep Learning in Order to Keep Making Money

Let’s use that brain and keep learning every day!

Have you ever met anyone that’s especially closed minded, and resistant to change? Someone who can’t handle bigger changes in work, technology, or society – who pines for the way things “used to be” with respect to most things?

Those days aren’t coming back. Neither is the slower pace of change that may have been a part of things in an era gone by. It sure seems as though the velocity of change keeps accelerating each passing year that goes by. Heck, it’s probably more like each passing month or week that goes by.  Technology, frameworks, processes, and communication platforms are changing rapidly. This isn’t like the telephone was invented, and then decades went by before cordless phones were the “cool thing” for years. Change seems to be happening faster and faster all the time.

Along those lines, I think it’s more important than ever to focus on life-long learning. I had included continual learning as one of 15 ways to grow and protect net worth in a prior post.  If we instead keep the mindset of people who just like things “the way they have been”, and are slow to adopt different changes, we risk getting left behind. If we don’t keep up, somebody else somewhere is. Not only that, but others are driving change. Thus, it’s best to keep our head in the game, be flexible, and stay with the changes.

In addition to technological changes, I’ve come to believe that it’s probably a good idea to try to learn from any situation and any job you have. You might be in a job you don’t like right now, and it might seem like what you’re doing is not aligned with your true interest.  Fair enough.

Thing is, not sure about you, but I’ve come to find that I’ve learned lessons from every job I’ve had over the years. Yes, even a few that I had all the way back in high school. One thing is that I don’t ever want to be in that type of job again:) Other than that, and more practically, I learned some communication skills and how to handle customers. One high school job I had was as a customer service representative. At first, I was taken aback by the angry customers who came in to complain; that’s pretty much who I dealt with. However, after a while, I began to learn strategies to handle them, and resolve issues while making them feel like they got something out of the deal. It became a fun challenge to try to turn a skeptical and irritated customer into a happy one.  These foundational skills have come in handy over the years, successfully dealing with certain people in my professional career.

Also, I’ve learned to keep in mind that when you try to learn and do your best, someone is often looking. Your reputation in a job that might seem entry level can carry a lot of weight with people who can open doors for you to better jobs. An approach of continual learning can pay off in numerous way.

Why do I say all this? Well, I think that when I was much younger, I didn’t always try to be an early adopter. Rather, I would get comfortable with a certain way of doing things, or a certain job environment, and be content. It took me some time, but I’ve come to see that my own successes have come by actively trying to learn from every situation, and improve even in some small way as a result.

If change is inevitable, we might was well take an approach of active learning, intellectual curiosity, then and adapt and/or better ourselves each passing day.

What Do You Think?

Do you try to take an active approach to learning from your experience each day?

Do you also think that it’s become more important to embrace continual learning each passing year?

Have you also noticed an accelerating rate of change in our jobs, technology, communication platforms, etc?