“If you really have done a great job as a leader, you should wake up in the morning and have nothing to do.”
– Steve Case, Co-founder of AOL, Chairman and CEO, Revolution
This quote changed the way I think about my IT consulting career. Soon after I read it, a coworker complained to me that his manager was dumping menial work on his underlings; to the point it appeared he was taking on very few tasks. Previously, I would have sided with my coworker thinking this manager was not pulling his weight, but now I realize this guy is working on becoming a good manager. While his team is writing his status reports, the manager is likely devising his next steps up the corporate ladder.
The goal of actually having nothing to do as a manager or leader is impossible to achieve. But STRIVE for this goal, and it will drastically change the way you approach your career. Mr. Case also states that putting in place a team of the right people is an important step toward achieving your goal. By streamlining workflow and empowering capable and trustworthy people, a manager can inch closer to quiet mornings with an empty email inbox.
Click here to see a video interview with Steve Case about management.
Apply This to Your Life
You may not be a manager at your job, but you are the CEO of your household and your finances. So how can you take this management philosophy and apply it to your life?
Can you reduce, streamline, delegate, simplify and automate your life on the way to financial independence – getting your finances in order to the point where you have little to do except enjoy life in retirement? That would be true independence.
The whole idea behind passive income is to make money with little effort, and ultimately not need a ‘real’ job to pay the bills. The hard work is done up front, whether it be buying a real estate property, a dividend stock, or some other form of investment income. Some maintenance work must be done in the future, such as managing the rental property (or communicating with a property manager and making decisions), or keeping up on stock and investment performance. Passive income is the vehicle you need to achieve financial independence. But once you’re there, it’s time to slow down and enjoy yourself. Having too many things that need to be done all the time defeats the purpose of striving for free time in the first place.
Those seeking financial independence want more free time to pursue passions that can’t be pursued while working a 40-hour per week job. Pursuits can include new business ventures, traveling, an athletic goal, spending more time with family, picking up a hobby, or just simply reading for pleasure. The last thing you want in early retirement is unwanted administrative tasks that take up your time.
What are Some Things You Can Do to Reach This Goal?
- If you have income streams that come from real estate that you manage, it would be best to eventually hire a property manager to run it for you. Otherwise you’d be better off selling it because rental properties will take up your time. Rental property problems can interfere with your life; like when my wife was due to have a baby and the condo association called me in for a hearing about my tenants putting their garbage out on the wrong night.
- If your passive income streams come from stocks, well then you better buy good companies with long histories of paying and increasing dividends; companies with wide economic moats, strong balance sheets, and excellent management. Too much work? Income stock ETFs like the SDY, VIG, and NOBL may fit the bill instead, spreading out your risk and decreasing the need to keep an eye on things all the time. Or buy bonds. Or if you really want to get passive, hire an investment adviser who handles your investments for you, but expect to pay hefty fees for this service. Although it may be worth it if you really want to get laissez-faire with your investments.
- Use one financial institution to manage all of your investments. I’m guilty here. I have a taxable online brokerage account, a DRIP account with Computershare, a 401k account through work, and a retirement account with a different broker. I need to do better at this today, but I’ll certainly straighten it out by the time I stop working. Nowadays you can use a tool like Personal Capital to track everything on one screen, but you still need to log into all of your accounts to take action.
- If you invest in peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, the industry is moving in the direction of automation. Lending Club Prime allows you to choose your investment criteria and the service will place orders for you when inventory becomes available. Prosper has similar functionality too. Set up your P2P accounts right and you’ll receive and reinvest the income without thinking about it too much.
- Eliminate your bills. Don’t have bills, don’t have bills to pay. Pay off your debts and work toward paying off your mortgage. Cancel unneeded insurance policies, cable TV, magazine subscriptions, jelly of the month club… whatever it is you don’t want or need, eliminate it and you won’t have a financial action to take. My wife had a Banana Republic credit card for years and liked it because they sent her coupons. Since she no longer needs work clothes, she doesn’t shop there as frequently. When she did use it, it was another bill to pay. This month we finally closed it.
- Embrace the ACH (Automated Clearing House) and set up online bill pay. Most young people are already doing this. But you can get extreme and not sign up for anything that can’t be automated. Use one bank to pay all of your bills, or better yet, use the same financial institution where your investments reside. Never write another check.
Finance as a Hobby
People like me, and probably a lot of you, think finance is fun. When I implement automation for my bills and simplify my finances, it opens up more opportunities to analyze investments, make crazy spreadsheets, and track my money… hobbies I enjoy. Writing for this blog is another hobby I enjoy. Every time I automate a financial aspect of my life, or eliminate an action I need to take, it gives me more time to do fun stuff. As an example, I used to pay my car insurance 4 times a year. But recently I switched to the one payment a year plan. Paying once a year instead of quarterly saves me three checks I don’t have to write and account for… yes I still write checks for that one. Maybe I need to find an insurance company that does bill pay with my bank. If I take a lot more steps like this, more free time will open up.
When I’m retired and traveling in some remote part of the world, I’ll always have some financial responsibilities that need to be taken care of. Concerns like filing taxes, following investments, and home bills and maintenance while I’m gone will need to be handled by myself or someone I pay. Technologies like the smart phone will allow me to handle my finances on the fly, further permitting extended traveling and fun activities. But even though I’ll always have some financial tasks, I can still STRIVE to get my financial life to the point that I have little or nothing to do with my finances each morning. Just as the quote by Mr. Case has influenced my career, it’s a reminder of the need to simplify my financial life so I have more time for things I enjoy.