Whether you like it or not You are a brand. Everything you say and do either adds or subtracts from your brand. Ignore You and your brand starts to turn stale.
You, Inc. is your brand. It will take you wherever you want to go. But do you know what You, Inc. is all about?
It is simple to see You, Inc. in action when compared to a business. Take this blog for example. I can speak at conferences or just attend to build contacts. Guest blogging brings more visibility to my work. Or I can spend money to promote my brand. How I act and interact with people around me reflect on my brand. Treat the brand well and it will take good care of me; ignore it or treat it badly and the brand will kamikaze faster than you can snap your fingers.
Building You, Inc. takes time and effort; destroying You, Inc. can happen fast. Your income and net worth are directly related to the brand of You, Inc. Arming yourself with knowledge is the surest way to supercharge your brand. But knowledge is not enough. Knowledge without action is worthless. Creating a large net worth in a relatively short time is possible. Increasing income to retire debt and grow investments is the only road to financial independence.
Building the Brand
There are two phases to your brand: the building phase and the maintaining phase. In the building phase you attend school and work a job or run your own business. In phase two you have reached financial independence. Building more net worth is unnecessary in phase two, but it tends to happen anyway. In fact, if you do it right, you earn more and grow your net worth more once you reach financial independence than while in the building phase.
There are two reasons for this. During the building phase you are so focused on earning a living, paying bills, raising a family and investing there is no time to see all the opportunities, none the less act on them. Once you reach financial independence you tend to release the huge breath you were holding. The tension is reduced and you finally relax; your vision is clearer than ever before. At this stage you have more experience than at any time in your life.
You, Inc. is a multinational conglomerate. Unfortunately you focus on only one income stream early on because you don’t know better. It hurts the financial statement badly. Economic winds toss you to and fro. Sickening!
A multinational conglomerate suffers when it only cares about income from one division just like You suffer when all you consider is your paycheck.
The best run companies, the best brands, have money coming in from all directions. Any company with a large percentage of the revenues coming from one source is at risk the one customer leaves or the one job disappears. You need to diversify.
It’s Only a Job
I can hear you already. “It’s only a job.” I get it. Your job is a stepping stone to bigger and better things. Your brand still matters and you must work constantly to build the brand. If you disagree, tell me this: How important is the brand of a convict released from prison? It might only be a job, but they are hard to find and even if you do all your eggs are in one basket. How much better to have an awesome brand with multiple stream of income?
If you want a job then get one. A regular wage-earning job is perfectly fine if it is what you want. It isn’t the end however. A job is only one source of income. Your journey to financial independence needs a margin of safety. Your brand needs to expand.
Business owners understand the concept better. One customer is not a business, it’s a job. (Well, it actually can be a business for tax purposes.) When you have a job you technically have one customer and she holds all the cards.
While you build toward financial independence it is best to have many sources of income. Your brand will pave the way. To supplement your wage you can add rental income or a side gig. Once debt is sufficiently reduced your index fund investments throw off a stream of dividends which is another source of income.
Throwing a Net
So how do you build your brand? How do you bring You, Inc. to life? Every situation is different. Your favorite accountant’s practice was generally a local or regional firm until Mr. Money Mustache gave me a push and this blog showed up. Now I have a national and even an international footprint. To adequately manage a larger footprint takes additional effort. I travel much more now than I have in the past. Speaking at conferences is almost a given.
But what about You, Inc. Your favorite accountant is fine and dandy, but that doesn’t help you. For most readers the net you throw will be local or at most regional. A side gig or full-time business will lay limp unless you breathe life into it. The breath of life can either be in the form of expensive advertising (something that doesn’t build a small local brand effectively) or well planned brand building.
Example: How much would you need to spend in advertising to match the advantages of a well executed speaking engagement? Imagine your favorite accountant advertising. Would it grow the business? Maybe. What if I gave a presentation with lots of ideas at the local apartment association, Elks Club or Optimist Club?
Your brand will determine if you speak locally or more broadly. Podcasts are important to grow a blogs brand. But a side gig can get a real boost with a guest appearance on a local radio talk show.
Starting local and expanding from home base is a logical way to build You, Inc. When opportunity arises you can spring into action. If your eyes are always open for opportunity your sphere of influence will expand.
A well oiled brand has numerous automatic streams of income. Index funds throw off a growing stream of dividends. Investment properties grow your rental income. A side gig allows you to take on work you enjoy while earning extra coin. The best part is the taxes. The worst form of income is wages/salaries. The IRS beats you silly when this is your only income. W-2 income has few chances to reduce the tax bill.
Qualified dividend income is taxed at a lower rate than ordinary income you bust tail to get. Same applies to long-term capital gains. And even if you read this blog poorly you will have noticed the serious tax advantages of owning income property.
Then there are some streams of income that are sporadic and only partially automatic. When your focus is on pounding out as many hours as possible at a job there is no time left to explore better deals. Tax-free credit card bonuses are a good example. Worst of all, with no time to plan you probably overpay the IRS.
There is only one solution: dump phase one. That’s right! Dump phase one, the building or accumulating phase.
The dirty little secret rich people don’t tell you is formalized work is not necessary once you have a small nest egg started. If your annual spending is $40,000, then you need $1 million invested considering the 4% rule. But that is a big fat lie! Many people (most who actually try) earn more once they retire or at least end formalized work.
The cost of working is high! Driving to work, wearing office clothes or other required uniform and lunch on the road add up and you have little control over your income. The biggest expense of working a formalized job is the information and knowledge you miss on awesome deals. You’re either not around to see them or too busy to notice.
Phase one is required, but you need to move beyond the beginners phase as quickly as possible. The real money, the real opportunities are out there. Once formalized work is out of the way you can attend conferences where you meet people of like mind. Before long you have more profitable offers than you can handle. Trust me, I know. You can’t even accept a fraction of the offers.
Phase two is the fun phase. You want to get there as soon as possible. This is the one time it is okay to put the cart before the horse. I tell my children they only need about $300,000 before they can retire. Dividends/capital gains, credit card and other banks giveaways and selling trade lines will be more than enough to pay the bills. A side gig will put the final nail in.
The side gig can be almost anything. My oldest daughter has found so many ways to earn coin while not working much in a formalized work setting. It is disconcerting to her because all her friends do “normal” work. Sorry girls. Dad’s not normal and there is this thing called genetics.
Use media. Facebook and other social media are fine, but the real hidden values are more sublime. My oldest daughter again has this idea she wants to tutor. She devised a method to help children with challenges learning. She tried it out with great success working part-time at the local YMCA. Now she is going on local radio talk shows. Did I mention the word busy? Of course it works! And radio talk shows are so hungry for guests they bleed from the eyes. Christian radio especially. Twenty years ago I published a book and went on radio talk shows around the country all by phone and sold nearly 50,000 copies. And it was a blast!
One financial conference will provide you with more ideas than you can use. You can sit at home watching cable or screwing around on social media. The choice is yours.
Or you can keep the “normal” job. Somebody has to do it. Not me! But you might be fine with it.