Perfect is the Enemy of Good

Perfect is the Enemy of Good. This is a maxim I use quite a bit. Perhaps I overuse it, letting it all hang out. But I’d rather put something out there, than nothing at all.

I used this maxim when I started my law firm, choosing to focus on getting a minimum viable product up, and then pounding the pavement for potential clients. I didn’t even have my diplomas on the wall for the first year. I was too busy trying to get shit done to worry about the minutiae. Hell I didn’t even have malpractice insurance at first – how are you going to commit malpractice if you don’t have any clients?

I think a lot of people use perfection as an excuse. An excuse to not create or ship. “It’s not perfect,” they say. So it sits on a shelf collecting dust, with all of the other imperfect ideas.

About a year into my journey starting a law firm, another young guy straight of out school rented space in my building and tried to start a firm of his own. He labored over picking out the right CPA, designing business cards, building the perfect website, reading every book on the subject, and asked inane questions about every little detail. The problem he had is that he didn’t focus on what really mattered: finding clients to pay for his services. He spent all his time decorating his office and no time hustling for work. He also wanted to practice in a very niche area of the law, and he didn’t want to get his hands dirty with the kind of work coming through the door. That wasn’t what he envisioned his perfect law firm to be.

After several months of re-designing his letterhead, his fixed costs ate away his savings and he died on the vine. It was sad to see him shutter his business and go, but if he spent half the time pounding the pavement that he did selecting the perfect credit card processor, he would probably still be here.

I have applied this philosophy to a number of other ventures, including this very website. The idea is to actually do something, instead of figeting around nervously trying to muster the balls to actually put yourself out there. You miss 100% of the swings that you don’t take and learn more from your failures than your successes.

Sure, after you have proven the concept it’s important to not put out sloppy work, and as you build a legitimate business or hone your art it makes sense to take a closer look at the systems and formalities that need to be in place to support a viable going concern. But don’t use perfection as a crutch.

So shoot first and ask questions later. Or ship nothing and continue to do what you have always done.

Refinancing Student Loans with SoFi – My Experiences

What follows is my story leading up to refinancing my student debt with So-Fi. If you want to skip the background info and get straight to the review, please see the “Refinancing Through SoFi” section.

I managed to make it through 4.5 years of college at a private university with only $5,000.00 in debt. Between a generous scholarship, generous parents, and some summer jobs I banged my way through school and emerged with a dual major and a relatively decent balance sheet. I didn’t realize how lucky I was.

It was December of 2009 and I was clearing out my college apartment. I packed all of my worldly belongings into the back of a rental car and began the 16 hour drive to my parent’s house. On the road I reflected on my experience, and how I had little in the way of immediate career prospects or a real plan for the future. I had a finance degree and the thought of getting a corporate job was frankly pretty scary at the time. It was then that I made the decision to double down on my education and go to law school – presumably to graduate 3 years later into a vastly improved economy and walk into a cushy 6 figure job prosecuting patents or handling mergers and acquisitions of the 80th floor of some prestigious law firm. I commenced sharpening my pencils and seeking temporary employment so that I could take the LSAT, apply to law school, and with any luck join the starting class in August of 2009.

Fast forward to June of 2012. I graduated from a state law school with only $75,000 in student loan debt. From what I can tell I was again quite lucky. Although I funded my graduate school almost entirely though student loan debt (and again some summer jobs), many of my legal contemporaries waltzed away with much bigger student loan burdens. It is not uncommon to hear of law school graduate shouldering $150k+ in loan debt.

Still, these $75,000 in loans were no pittance, especially after logging in to the online loan servicing software and seeing this debt happily accrue interest at 6.8%. Holy Shit. At the time I still had no employment prospects to speak of, and the thought of paying down this obligation had me thinking about enlisting in the army, mowing lawns, or donating my bodily fluids to science – anything to get out from beneath the wheel. The economy was still on the mend and employers were not lining up to hire on brand new lawyers (especially brand new lawyers like me who graduated with a 3.1)

But as luck would have it I was in a new town. Though brute force, ignorance, and a lot of help from a mentor I managed to open my own law office. I started rendering legal services to anyone who would take a chance on a young lawyer with no experience, no money, and no real idea what the hell he was doing. It sounded daunting, even to me, but I was hungry and my lease was about to expire. The choice was to make this work or move back in with my parents across the state, and start prospecting for work all over again in yet another town. All at the tender age of 27. The perfect storm was brewing, and I was going to either capture lightning in a bottle or go down with the ship.

I hustled my ass off. I spent most of my time outside of the office, meeting with potential referral sources and marketing for clients. Pounding the pavement and pressing the flesh were my two biggest prerogatives. My overhead was low and my rates were competitive. I stumbled in to several under-served niches, and distinguished my practice. Within a few months I was break even. Quickly I became profitable. People asked how I was doing, and I would say “I’m still here.” That in itself was an accomplishment.

One of my first orders of business was to get my financial house in order. At this stage in my life, my foundation was built on debt.

At first the student loans scared me, but my fear soon turned to anger. The minimum payment was $700. I began chucking $1000.00 payments at my loan. Paying with my middle finger. The principal hardly budged at first, but I consistently poured money into the account. The needle began to move, but the 6.8% rate dismayed me. With Federal interest rates at an all time low, and the economy resting upon the backs of a new generation, I didn’t understand how the hell I could be the borrower on a 6.8% Federal loan. Frankly I still don’t. What is the public policy of making loads of interest on students? Probably the same public policy that is driving up the cost of education in the first place. But that is a subject of another article…

Refinancing Through SoFi

I looked into refinancing. I was about a year into my practice at the time and had heard of SoFi. I fired off a loan application and was promptly rejected. I didn’t take it personally. Without a single tax return under my belt and no one paying my salary I wouldn’t have refinanced me either. So I doubled down on my payments. I started paying the debt with my middle finger. I would make the minimum payment and then slide $1,000 on top of it. Then $1,500. Then $2,000. Whatever I could afford. I sold stuff. I lived off ramen noodles. I worked weekends. I further developed my side business. I would be damned if this interest rate got the better of me.

I decided to re-apply to SoFi in May of 2015. I my debt was down to about $36,000.00 at the time. I had a couple tax returns under my belt and had an amazing first quarter of business. I was feeling frisky. The loan application process was relatively straight forward. I filled out the online form and supplied tax returns, a payoff statement from Sallie Mae and whatever else they asked for (because I was self-employed they wanted to look at my books – which I promptly had my accountant prepare). When I had questions, or a problem with their loan application software, I was able to speak with a live person. Even over the weekend. The process wasn’t perfect (I had trouble uploading documents through their online application) but they seemed to want my business and get back to me in a timely manner, so I proceeded forward.

Amazingly, this time I was met with an approval letter. Now the choice became whether I refinanced into a fixed rate loan (I believe the rate was around 5.5%) or a 3.4% variable over 5 years. Interest rates are supposed to be on the rise, but I had made the decision to continue paying down the loans early, so I doubled down again and went for the ultra-low (but perhaps riskier) 3.4% variable option with auto pay. I figure even if interest rates rise sharply, it will be at the tail end of the loan when most of my principal is paid down. I should still end up on top, even if the interest rate ends up back at 6.8% or something stupid. I don’t necessarily advocate for this approach. There was no loan origination fee which made the decision even easier. I agreed to the variable loan and signed all of the necessary closing documentation electronically.

The loan funding process was relatively smooth. SoFi paid off my old debt and I opened an account with their new servicer. My payment is currently around $600 a month, with a good deal more going to principal thanks to the reduced rate. I got on their auto-pay program to save a little interest and I continue to pay this debt very aggressively despite the much lower rate. By my calculations, the refinance should save me $1,500 over the life of the loan assuming I continue to pay down aggressively. That number would be substantially higher if I just made minimum payments.

My advice to anyone seeking to refinance their student loans is to consider So-Fi. I had a good experience working with them. Had I been able to originally refinance my $75k from 6.8% to 3.4% from the beginning it would have saved thousands of dollars (tens of thousands if I just made the minimum payment). So-Fi is working for me and I give the company my personal endorsement.

If you sign up to refinance a student loan through SoFi using this link, you will get a $100.00 discount on your loan.

If you sign up for a personal loan through SoFi using this link, you will get a $100.00 discount on your loan.

 

2016 Goals and Resolutions

All the self help gurus tell you to write down your goals. I suppose it’s my turn to stand atop the mountain. Now that I have this nifty new blog, I figured I would take the time to think of some of my goals and resolutions for 2016 (as some of them are finance related, and all have a way of filtering down to my bottom line – whether in business, quality of life, or both).

Plus this is a great way to store and revisit them.

Save at Least 50% of My Net Income

I easily did this last year (although I don’t have any exact numbers) if you factor in paydown of my student loans and car. Some might call that cheating, but as my accountant says “Paying down debt builds your balance sheet the same way saving money does”. So I have decided to include that. And I did a good job paying down my student loan debt last year if I do say so. Mint tells me that I started 2015 with $45,984 in student loans, and ended the year with a balance of $20,199.

As I am self employed and have started to ramp up my income, I am more closely attuned to taxes, specifically (legally) minimizing the amount of taxes I have to pay. I opened a SEP IRA in 2015 and also decided in the middle of the year to make my personal contributions to a traditional IRA rather than the ROTH IRA I had been contributing to for 3 years prior.

Get Free of Consumer Debt Student Loans

Another lofty ambition, although if I kept the pace I had going in 2015, I should be able to wipe out my student loans without any issue. I also have a car loan with a ~$7,000 balance. The interest rate on that is under 3% and I have another 2 years of payments. I have not attacked that debt aggressively like my student loans, and I am not sure I will. But who knows, if I knock out those student loans and still feel frisky I may pay off my car early.

That would leave me with a modest mortgage that I am OK with continuing to pay for the time being.

No Email on My Phone

I have 2 email accounts that I check regularly: my work account and personal account. I haven’t had work email on my phone for over a year and I don’t miss it. E-mail is a huge time suck, I check it way too much already, and the thought of having my work in my pocket at all times doesn’t particularly excite me.

But I still have had my personal account on my phone, and I check it a dozen or so times a day. And really there is no reason to. 99% of it is not time-sensitive, and it’s just a waste of time so I took my email completely off my phone today and the goal is to not re-install it. Lets see how that goes.

3 Beers a Week

I love beer (and loved drinking in general). I made the realization a few months ago after watching a Casey Neistat video that alcohol kills productivity. So I stopped drinking as much (basically no hard liquor – maybe a beer or 2 a night, and trying to abstain completely when the mood strikes me).

Then I had a chat with my buddy Andrew who told me he has been replacing beer with wine, which immediately got me on a bit of a wine kick.

Long story short I’d like to limit myself to 1 drink a day during the week and 3 beers a week, substituting a little more red wine for beer. Lets see how this goes.

Read 2 Books a Month

I’d like to read at least a couple books a month, which would put me around 25 books for the year. I more or less did that last year. I recently signed up for Goodreads, so I’ll be able to track this a little better and perhaps even write a book review or 2 here. I read a mix of fiction and non fiction, enjoy biographies of successful business people, and generally try to read a little every day (even if it is 15 minutes before bed). I don’t think it will be too tough to reach this goal but lets see.

Swim 3 Times a Week

What list of resolutions would be complete without a fitness related resolution? Although 2015 has generally been a great success for me, one thing that suffered was my fitness. I got fatter. I essentially started a second job over the summer, and working a second job in the evenings cut down on my gym time (which is when I like to work out during the week). But I need to get my act together if I am going to continue to be productive.

I used to swim a few times a week and favored short sprint work outs (10 100 yard laps timed – with the goal of going as fast as possible). I always loved building on progress in the gym, but my inconsistency in the pool made it basically impossible to improve each time I went for a swim. I have decided to take the pressure off of my performance in the pool and instead swim for at least 30 minutes (15 sets of 100 yards at 1:45 a 100). So far I have really enjoyed this more leisurely workout, and I actually feel very relaxed and sore after the swims.

So I’m going to shoot for swimming every Saturday and Sunday and at least 1 day during the week.

Write 1 Article a Week on this Blog

I want to try and write at least one article a week on here. I am hooked on Casey Neistat vlogs, and the guy produces a nicely edited video every day to an audience of millions. I admire Casey for a number of reasons, and I want to pull a page from his book and force myself out of my comfort zone, and to create more and consume less. I’m not ready for an article a day, but I think an 1 article a week is a good goal. So I will resolve to write at least one article a week here and see what happens. I can’t guarantee the quality here – this may be my equivalent of morning pages.

Final Thoughts

That’s it for now. My goals regurgitated on digital paper. To be updated, amended, and revisited in the future.

Introduction and First Post

I have been tossing the idea of starting a personal finance blog around in my head for some time now. I have greatly enjoyed reading these websites, and designing my own financial future over the past 3 or so years since graduating from school and working full time. I have always been fascinated by money and have always wanted some form of freedom and independence. I also have some experience building websites, having successfully launched a small hobby website for some side income, and used a website to launch a successful brick and mortar small business. Finally, I enjoy reading and writing. I can think of few things that have generated a greater return for me in my life than all the books I have read and words I have put to page. Term papers, clumsy emails, attempts at fiction, projects for work, blog posts – all opportunities to find art in the mundane.

So the thought of combining all of these interests into a website is a natural extension. The question any one has in starting a project like this is “why me? what do I have to offer the reader?”. Also you need to find your shtick, or niche as it were. Especially in a crowded space like personal finance. You need to focus on blogging about paying down debt, real estate, frugality, internet marketing, financial independence, stocks, bonds, dividend stocks, taxes, peer to peer lending, etc. Find your niche and find your voice. And I have given some thought over the past few months as to how my voice would sound and where my niche would be.

And then I decided to through caution in the wind, and niches out the window. I have some experience with many of these “niches” and want to provide commentary on them all. I want to write about what I find interesting, share the journey with the hope of helping someone. Or perhaps this will be a simple exercise in mental masturbation. Thought experiments. Shameless article writing for traffic and affiliate income. The incoherent ranting of a delusioned man trying to find his space in the world. Who knows where the wind will take this.

In Robert Kiysakis’ book Cashflow Quadrant, he said there were 3 major ways to build wealth: income producing stocks and bonds, real estate, and businesses. My wealth building strategy involves all 3, and I intend to write about all three here.

And of course every blog needs a name. I spent a small amount of time thinking of this. SnappySix has always stuck in my head for some reason. A piece of gristle caught in the gums of my consciousness. It means nothing, but we all need a shtick, and mine will be (for the time being) “Personal Finance on all Six Cylinders”.

So that’s enough background for now.