My 5-Year Finance Plan (And A Lofty Goal)

Today I turned 25. To me, its a scary number. Even if I were to live to be 100, that’s 25% of my life behind me. Despite my relative youth, I feel like time is running out. Its safe to say that time is the most precious commodity individuals have. Its not replenishable and unless futurologists make significant advances in my lifetime it is finite. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with the rest of my life. What do I enjoy doing? What do I want to do? The things I always come back to are: read A TON of books, continue my video game hobby, collect/play TCGS, travel, and spend more time with family. I think that’s in line with most Americans. Most of us have hobbies, and most of us want to spend more time with family and continue to pursue what really makes us happy. While thinking about all of this, I’ve also realized that there is so much I want to do, play, see, and experience that I will never be able to do so without becoming extremely financially independent.

I’ve always made it known that I don’t plan on working a day over 50, and my soft target has been retirement at age 45. I think most people find it weird for me to say that. After all, how many people do you know who have retired so young? Additionally, I’m only one year into my full-time career. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and the people I work with. But between my passion for running, reading, and all my other leisurely activities I promise you I could spend my time better than working 40 hours per week minimum. So I’ve decided to take action. I’ve crafted a few spending plans and below I’m going to lay out my current financial status and the goal I want to hit when I turn 30. I’ll probably only update you on my progress once a year.

So, without further ado…my INSANE goal is…

Goal: Have a net worth of $1 million by age 30.

Where I’m starting: I have about $38,000 in student loan debt. I have a tiny emergency fund and just over $11,000 in my 401(k). I also have ~$1200 in my company stock.

The Plan
1. Liquidate assets to pay off debt as quickly as possible. By my calculations, I should be 100% debt free by age 27.
2. Continue to invest in my 401k, and my companies ESPP (stock plan).
3. Open an IRA, contribute the max each year.

All of this sounds fantastic on paper, but even if I were to max everything out, achieve 15% returns each year (obviously never going to happen) and essentially dump every dollar I make into investment accounts, I’d never make it to that lofty number of one million buckaroos. So I will need to take further action…

4. Develop additional website, mostly static, to generate advertising revenue.
5. Execute my eBook publishing plan.
6. Dump some money into alternative investments.

Developing additional website (which I already have plans for) will open me up to further advertising opportunities. The handful of ideas I have will translate to mostly static web pages that hopefully will become passive income streams for me. As for the eBooks, I have tentative plans for more than twenty books. I will write some personally, and contract out the others to ghost writers. I expect that the only way I reach this goal is if I have success with my new websites and eBooks. That being said, I expect the significant increased in my net worth to come from ages 27-30. These first two years will be focused on paying down my debt and developing web site traffic. I don’t expect to publish any eBooks until 2018 at the earliest. As for the alternative investments, I will reveal some of my investing choices when I’m closer to my goal, I bet they surprise you!

A big component in this is that I can completely control my spending. I still live at home, so my financial obligations are essentially my debt. My current vehicle is old, so there is medium to high risk that I will need to replace that in the coming years. I want to acknowledge how dificult this journey will be. The average American’s net worth at age 30 is a mere $6000 according to the Motley Fool. Many people that age have multiple forms of debt: credit card, student loans, vehicle, mortgage, etc. I plan on having none of those. We’ll see how it all turns out.

-JB

Posted in Uncategorized

Revamping the Website

Greetings everyone!

Quick note: In the coming two to three months, I will be revamping this blog and website and begin to regularly post articles and content again. Its been a long time since I last wrote or checked in on the site, but I will be again using this as my personal outlet for creativity and expressing my thoughts on politics, gaming, and anything else I have an itch to write about. You can expect 1-2 posts per week once the site has “gone live” again.

During the next few months, I will be updating a handful of my other websites, a couple of them need A LOT of work. Until they are in content-producing states, I will not be posting regularly here. However, like I said above, once the content starts flowing you can expect a couple of blog posts per week! I’m excited to start all of this up again, thanks for reading.

-JB

Posted in opinion, Uncategorized

The Rise of Solar PV

As a former masters student who studied power systems for nearly five years, solar is currently one of those hot buzz topics in academic literature, university projects, and optimistic energy media sources. There has been widespread optimism concerning solar PV growth and cost reduction for many years. In many states, it already makes perfect financial sense to throw up solar. In ALL of the others, it will in no more than a decade. We are currently on the cusp of what could be the biggest paradigm shift in energy since the advent of the water wheel. And most people have no clue what is coming.

When it comes to technological shifts these days, it almost always hinges on some financial aspect. Billions of dollars have been invested in the power grid we are connected to today. Billions of hours of labor, design, and maintenance. Despite all of this, residential customers might be poised to leave the grid all together in just a few years. Let me explain.

In 2006, the federal government implemented the Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Between the time of its adoption and the end of 2014, the price of installed solar dropped a whopping 73%. As prices drop, it becomes more and more economically viable to install solar, which actually helps the price drop further. Installation in the United States is expensive because many companies/installers are inexperienced and lack the efficiency that German installers do. This may seem like an odd comparison, but to anyone who follows the solar PV market knows, Germany is the worldwide leader in installed solar PV. Their residential install cost in early 2013 was a mere $3/Watt while the US’s at the time was $6.19/Watt. A shocking difference, mostly due directly to installation and permitting expenses. Solar PV growth in the United States due to reduction in cost will in turn further reduce the cost.

Throwing around all of these numbers is great, but what do they mean? What $/Watt should make me install solar tomorrow? Well, it of course depends on your geographic location, current utility rates, and the specifications of your roof. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory did a fantastic report on breakeven costs per state under a variety of scenarios and essentially found that Southwest regions of the United States could see breakeven scenarios as low as $5/W, while the Midwest and other regions might not see breakeven scenarios even with $3.5/Watt. However, in the vast majority regions, $2/W would practically guarantee that solar PV installs would not only breakeven, but save you a lot of money.

So where are we now? As of March 13th, 2015, it was reported that the average residential install in the United States in $3.48/Watt, down from $3.83 at the start of 2014. And the future is looking good for anyone who has considered solar PV in the past. As manufacturing costs continue to fall abroad, and more people go solar in the states, it is estimated that solar PV system price will fall another 40% over the next couple of years. This spells massive change. A change that most people have yet to recognize, and probably don’t believe. More on solar later, but I encourage you all to do some research on the subject, as it stands to be a majorly disruptive technology in the coming years. Disruptive in a great way!

JackB

Posted in money, opinion Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Endorsing Bernie Sanders

Only a few years ago, I never would have imagined supporting a Democratic-Socialist in 2016. My political philosophy has seen many major changes over the last five years of life and college. During my late teenage years, I was an ardent Democrat. Supported and argued in support of Obama, partially because I bought into the hype, mostly because I was merely emulating the positions my parents had at the time. But I was severely disappointed by the way Obama’s first term turned out. Failed promises, more war, and in my eyes, a continuation of most things “Bush.” Still, I considered myself a Democrat. Mostly because I came from a middle class family, and identified with the donkey’s social platform more than the elephant’s. However, in preparation for the 2012 campaign, I began watching the Republican debates as I’ve always been interested in politics, and wanted to scope out the competition. And then something happened which changed my thought process entirely. I heard Ron Paul speak.

Now, Ron Paul isn’t a great speaker. I don’t agree with all of his positions. I don’t consider myself a full-blown libertarian, nor did I shift my affiliation to the Republican party during that election cycle. But I was drawn by his honesty. His position on foreign intervention and the honesty of his words in regards to 9/11, middle east policy, the drug war, and much more attracted me to his campaign. I became a strong Ron Paul supporter. Threw a bumper sticker on my car, and a sign in my parents yard. To me, Ron Paul represented an option that was different than both traditional Republican or Democratic candidates could offer, real change. During those middle college years, I also identified more with core libertarian values and less government intervention. Its also hard to not respect the man’s position on personal liberty and privacy concerns.

A few months ago, I had completely given up on 2016. I would have bet my munch money on a Clinton-Bush election, with Clinton being the winner. I wasn’t even going to participate in the process. After seeing the way Ron Paul’s campaign was sabotaged, I had no faith that a politician going against the grain could find success. Enter Bernie Sanders. I didn’t know much about Bernie until a month or so ago. I’d seen him on a few news programs and Bill Maher’s show before, but that was about it. I appreciated his position on Global Warming, and as an Electrical Engineer with a focus in power systems and an interest in solar PV, he was already decent in my book. At first, some of his seemingly more radical positions scared me. Free or heavily reduced college for all? Tax the heck out of the mega rich? A campaign that emphasizes income inequality issues and raising the minimum wage to $15/hr? Pretty much all of these issues are contradictory to the platform I so ardently defended and supported in 2012. But his honesty and the way he spoke made me listen to him more and more. And I researched the positions I didn’t agree with and came around on almost all of them. Raising the minimum wage makes sense. Why should the government or the rest of the American people subsidize Walmart by providing their workers food stamps because they are not making enough money? Why do the uber-rich often pay less taxes than the poor and middle class? Isn’t education the pathway to a more intelligent, profitable, and safe society? It would be impossible to summarize all of Bernie’s positions here, but he is the only candidate I trust with the most important issue facing mankind in the coming years: global climate change. The plain and simple truth is that we’re killing our planet. Irreversible damage has most likely already been done, and yet, we spend more money on tanks, bullets, and wars than we do on severing the ties with oil, coal, and other environmental hazards.

I think part of what initially attracted me to Bernie was the potential to shakeup the system. In a way, he reminded me of what Ron Paul offered, actual change. And while some of my political positions have flip-flopped almost as much as Mitt Romney’s, I’m glad to have finally arrived at a candidate who represents and espouses the ideas that America, and the world, needs to be successful moving forward. In 2016, I officially endorse and support Bernie Sander. Here’s to real, honest change.

-Jack Balt

Posted in news, politics Tagged with: , , , , ,

It’s Time To Fire Your Represenative

That magical time is almost upon us. In a little over a month, we all have the opportunity to fire members of the House of Representatives and some Senators by choosing to not re-elect them. Anyone who has read some of my earliest content probably has ascertained that I have zero respect for most of our politicians, and I highly recommend that everyone does some critical thinking when it comes to casting this year’s vote.

Historically, the last few Congress’s approval ratings have been abysmal. Stinking bag of poop on fire on your porch bad. And yet, I’m willing to bet that the incumbency factor will remain quite high per usual. This is not acceptable. Too many people fall into the trap of thinking that while Congress at large is terrible, that there Representative or Senator is doing a swell job. I used to bait my friends into admitting this and would then point out the fact that practically every one thinks like that.

Secondly, blindly voting down party lines is a trap in itself. I’m not a Republican, a Democrat, or anything you can really label I suppose and will not tell you how to vote. But ask yourself, why are you voting for this person? Where do they stand on the issues that matter to me? What are they going to do to make my life better? Don’t merely check to see their political affiliation and vote them through. That’s what both parties want you to do.

All in all, it is my express opinion that there really are not too many differences between Republicans and Democrats these days, at least at the Federal level. Sure, there are some polarizing issues that lend to the fictional scenario of a wide philosophical gap, but I’ll be damned if it ain’t just more of the same. So, vote with your head. And if you really don’t like any of the candidates don’t sit at home. Walk into the polling both and write in “No Confidence.” Because America.

Jack Balt

Posted in news, opinion, politics Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

All Aboard The Shadows of Mordor Hype Train

I haven’t paid full price for a video game in over four years. It may even be longer, but ever since life has become busier and money tighter, I’ve mostly resorted to splurging on Steam Sales and snagging Humble Bundles. The Shadows of Mordor just might force me to pay the egregious $60. It looks too good to be true, and is amassing great score and reviews all around. At first, many people believed it would just be a shitty Arkham City clone with worse mechanics and the Tolkien story included as a draw. Honestly, I probably would have bought that game too.

But the praise has almost been universal, the only negative reviews I’ve seen have said that it plays too much like the Arkham games, which I’m fine with. The SoM team has also made taking down bosses a bit more interesting. Each boss can drop a runestone that allows further skill/weapon customization. There are reportedly dozens upon dozens of these unique captain bosses. Some even “come back to life” after you defeat them once, with a scarred face from their previous defeat and a definite grudge.

The ability to choose how you play the game is also fantastic. From weapon choices to deciding to go the hack n’ slash or stealth route, the combat is varied and should keep it interesting. Cut scenes are also being lauded, something I typically do not care for too much in a game, but since this is LOTR, I’ll let it pass. And since this is LOTR, there are those usual few who are screaming bloody murder (or maybe Mordor) about the plot. To be honest, I do not know a whole lot about the plotlines in Shadows of Mordor and I don’t really care. Unless it completely undermines the previously established Tolkien story I will play it acceptingly even with a few strange plot holes, contradictions, or the sort. All in all, the game seems poised to have a great debut, and an even greater impact on my wallet.

Posted in Games, opinion, video games Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

Packers Can Not Afford To Lose At Soldier Field

The Green Bay Packers are once again off to a slow and disappointing start to the season. Coming in as a potential Super Bowl contender, the Rodgers led squad has looked more like they will be struggling down the stretch to make a wild card spot. The team’s biggest concern coming into the 2014 season was the defense. What can Peppers add? How will the team fill the big gap of an injured Raji? And can the secondary compete in the NFCN? All of these defensive questions seem quite laughable after three weeks. Sure, there are still some concerns on defense but it is the offensive struggles that now have the fanbase concerned.

A low scoring effort in week one was almost expected. The Hawks D and playing at Century Link field is a bad combination. But the offense played it safe and did not even give the Pack a chance to win the game. Not a single pass over 20 yds, nor a single target any where near Richard Sherman. Rodgers came away with a week 2 victory, despite a Broncos-esque Super Bowl performance in the first half. Turnovers and the inability to sustain drives have plagued this team thus far. Pulling away with the W at home against the Jets was a minor miracle based on the atrocious start. Nelson’s performance really saved the day.

Then comes the Lions. A team that is perennially ‘on the rise.’ We put up a measly 7 points and give up a safety. Lacy played like pure garbage. Lacy has yet to perform to the hype. A terrible fumble in the Lions game and that safety really put the Packers in a bad position. And you simply cannot blame the defense. They held the Lions to 19 points and forced three turnovers. Sure, I still think that our defense plays suspect on big downs, but calling them the root of our early problems is simply asinine.

Dropping tomorrow’s game to the Bears would mean that the Packers chances of a deep-playoff run, or even a birth, would be put in Jeopardy. The NFCN is a tough division, and starting 1-3 would be extremely hard to crawl out of. The offense needs to show us that they are who we thought they are and could be.

Jack Balt

Posted in sports Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,

Hyrule Warriors Launched Today, September 26th 2014

As I wrote the title, it occurred to me that it may come off as sounding like some historic event that took place. Maybe it has, but the launch of Hyrule Warriors is not that noteworthy. That being said, I’m looking forward to playing the new Zelda title. For those who are a little behind on their Nintendo/Zelda news, Hyrule Warriors is going where no other Zelda game has gone before. Well, no other game has really gone the Dynasty Warriors model before except for Dynasty Warriors.

That’s right. Our cute, green, Ganon-fighting Link is taking his skills to an open world, mass-slaying map conquest fest in which the only goal (in my giddy mind) is to kill kill kill. For fans of the Dynasty Warriors series, this might seem like an odd mash up. As one of those fans who also has an affinity for all things Legend of Zelda, I’m purely excited and the game play has looked great thus far. Have fun all you WiiU owner, perhaps if the right Black Friday deal comes along I will be able to dive in myself in a couple months!

Jack Balt

Posted in Games, opinion, video games Tagged with: , , , , , , ,

Steam Moving In The Right Direction

If you are one of the thousand of daily steam users, you definitely have noticed the recent layout changes. Steam looks sharper, crisper, and beautiful. The skin definitely needed a face lift, and I cannot imagine a better visual solution than what Valve has implemented.

One of the real big winners is the new Store display. It claims to be smarter and more personalized right at the top of the banner, and it is all that and more. It is almost like they took the whole “tag” concept, where users could tag a game with a key word, and blow that up into something tremendously more visually appealing. Finding new games to add to my wishlist (and subsequently purchase during the next sale) has never been funner or easier, something my wallet is lamenting.

The final thing I want to touch on is the new integrated music player. About. Damn. Time. It still needs some work, but this truly is a blessing, especially for some of the great soundtracks that come with Steam games. That being said, Steam is currently selling all of their games and soundtracks for a discount. If you already have a game like Half-Life 2, you can go ahead and add the soundtrack to your library and give the player a proper try.

Jack Balt

Posted in Games, video games Tagged with: , , , , , ,

HIMYM Season Nine Hits Netflix, Soon To Re-depress Many

Is it just me, or does it seem like there have been a decent amount of additions to the Netflix library over the last few weeks? My watch list has definitely grown and I’ve been really enjoying ploughing through what I missed in Criminal Minds. One of the recent additions is How I Met Your Mother season 9, or as I call it, the worst single season of any TV show in the history of mankind.

Seriously, tell me what could be worse? The entire premise of the show is supposed to be how Ted meets this mystery woman who fathers his children. She is sluggishly introduced throughout the last season, but we hardly see any of her in comparison to the usual cast of characters.

Robin and Barney’s wedding takes about forty episodes too long, and that might be an underestimate. To top it all off, the wedding is pretty pointless since they end up getting divorced. Ugh. Frustration all around.

All of this gets much worse when the mother dies and Ted essentially asks his children if he can pursue their “Aunt” Robin. And that sets up the closing shot, Ted hailing Robin’s familiar apartment from the street holding the smurf penis. Just terrible. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been calling FOR LITERAL YEARS now that Robin and Ted belong together. I’m not even mad about the fact that Ted and Robin supposedly end up together.

But what was the point of season nine then? The entire wedding buildup was so slow and forced and ultimately pointless because of the divorce that it just seems like the writers had no idea what they were doing or where they were going. You spend all this time hinting at this mystery woman who we finally meet (and I didn’t even really like her to be honest) and then instantly kill her off. You sure didn’t ruin the entire show, because thankfully I can just stop watching at season eight.

Jack Balt

Posted in opinion Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

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