Steps You Can Take to Achieve Financial Success, with Sandy Yong
Welcome to The MapleMoney Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. I’m your host, Tom Drake, the founder of MapleMoney, where I’ve been writing about all things related to personal finance since 2009.
Do you ever feel like there are roadblocks standing between you and financial success? Perhaps you’re struggling to see past your previous money mistakes. If that’s you, my guest this week is here to help. Sandy Yong is a financial speaker and author of a newly published book, The Money Master. Sandy joins me to discuss how our myths about money can derail us on our journey to financial freedom, and what we can do about it.
According to Sandy, our beliefs about money can often be traced back to childhood experiences or past mistakes that we’ve made. Thankfully, there are a number of steps we can take to overcome financial roadblocks, and find success. To start, Sandy suggests that people make a list of these barriers, including the scripts that play out in their mind about money. She says that most people need to realize that it’s ok to make mistakes, and instead focus on the lessons that are learned.
Struggling with overspending? Sandy shares a tip she once picked up and has used herself in the past. That is, to make a list of everything you spend money on and rate each item on a happiness scale. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m spending money on making me happy?” It helps to focus your time and attention, as well as your money, on the things that matter.
Our conversation is wide-reaching, we cover everything from whether budgeting should be an automated or manual task, the value of increasing your income, including some strategies for doing just that. If you have financial roadblocks to overcome, this episode is for you.
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- The definition of a millionaire mindset
- What roadblocks are preventing you from achieving financial success?
- The importance of creating a financial plan
- Divide financial goals into categories
- The importance of knowing where you stand financially
- Harness your existing skills to increase your income
- Ways to generate passive income
Do you ever feel as though there are roadblocks standing between you and financial success? Perhaps you’re struggling to surpass your previous money mistakes? If that’s you, my guest this week is here to help send. Sandy Yong is a financial speaker and author of a newly published book, The Money Master. Sandy joins me discuss how our myths about money can derail us on our journey to financial freedom and what we can do about it.
Welcome to the Maple Money Show, the podcast that helps Canadians improve their personal finances to create lasting financial freedom. Can you imagine no banking fees with a savings account that pays you 2.3 percent along with unlimited transactions, no minimum balance requirement and fast, cheap and fully transparent international money transfers? Well, the dream is real through our sponsor, EQ Bank Savings Plus account which gives you all that and more. For more information, visit maplemoney.com/eqbank, today. Now, let’s chat with Sandy…
Tom: Hi, Sandy, welcome to the Maple Money Show.
Sandy: Hi, Tom. Thank you so much for having me.
Tom: I was looking through your book, The Money Master, which just recently came out. One thing I thought was interesting that would make a good episode to have you on was Chapter Two; Developed Healthy and Wealthy Habits. If it’s okay with you we’ll go through all of that with listeners.
Sandy: Sure. I’d love to.
Tom: First, was step one; to have a millionaire mindset. What does that mean? What is a millionaire mindset?
Sandy: I think it’s important for people to take a step back and think about what their current mindset is like because you can’t really generate a million dollars if you have an employee mindset or a poor mindset. In general, I think in order to be successful, you have to think big and have big goals. For example, Grant Cardone has the “10X rule,” where whatever goals you’ve set for yourself, he’s always challenging people to 10X that and go large because even though it might seem scary and a bit overwhelming where you’re not sure if you can achieve it, at least you’re pushing yourself to try even harder. Even if you maybe achieve a portion of your goal, you’ve probably done a lot better than what you would have originally set for yourself. I think that sometimes we have self-limiting beliefs or maybe it’s the way we grew up and how parents taught us. Or maybe it’s what society taught us. I think that it’s important to think about what money myths you may have and what roadblocks are stopping you from achieving the financial success you want to have in your life.
Tom: What are some of those roadblocks? I know there are all sorts of ways we stand in our home way with money, but are we talking past mistakes or other things that just get in our head?
Sandy: Even when it comes to past financial mistakes, I’m sure all of us have experienced it to some extent. I think that it’s important to not beat ourselves up over a mistake even if it is quite significant. I think the most important thing is to think about what mistake you made and what lesson you can learn from it and take away from it so that it doesn’t happen again. Money comes and goes but you can always earn more money. So even people who have lost a significant amount—say if it’s in the stock market and or real estate, I think it’s important to just learn from it, get past it and understand you can always attract more money into your life to achieve the goals you want to achieve.
Tom: I like this whole mindset idea because it kind of frames things right, especially if you’re not looking at things positively. We just had an episode with Lacey Langford a couple episodes ago where I asked her kind of jokingly if this was a secret. And she said it kind of was but at the same time, not really. It’s a little more real—something that actually affects how you save money and invest and all that. So your next step was to create a plan. What’s this plan look like? Is this setting goals? What kind of plan are people making here? Is this meeting with a planner?
Sandy: In terms of setting a plan you have to take some time to sit down with yourself or significant other a spouse to look at your current financial situation. Think about all the goals you want to accomplish, whether it’s short-term, mid-term or long-term goals. These goals could be different categories such as your career, car, your dream home, the lifestyle you want. For instance, you want to go on a vacation once or twice a year or there may be some new skills you want to pick up. Maybe you want to have a healthy lifestyle—things like that. Put a dollar value of how much it will cost to achieve those goals and also the timeline of when you want to achieve it by. That way you can break it down and think about how many weeks, months or years you need to save up the money to achieve these goals.
Tom: With these goals it sounds a lot like a lot of wants. It’s a great Segway to step three which is to live within your means. In a way they sort of sound like they’re contradicting themselves. With a plan we’re saving up for some of these wants but when living within our means, are we eliminating all of our wants? How does that shape up?
Sandy: When it comes to living within your means, what I mean by that is when you calculate all of your income and figure out where all your money going, you want to make sure that at the end of the month you still have some disposable income left over and you’re not in a deficit where you’re overspending because statistics show that on average, Canadians spend a $1.70 for every dollar coming in. If you’re one of the people listening and you’re in that boat, then chances are you’re in debt which makes it even harder to achieve the goals that you want. That’s not to say you can’t achieve them but it’ll probably take a bit of actual work developing those good financial habits to get there. I think it’s important to think about what type of short-term, mid-term and long-term goals you want to achieve. Living within your means is achievable for people if they look at where their money is going and think about creative ways they can cut back. For instance, if you have magazine subscriptions or gym memberships you don’t use, I think it’s good to assess where you’re spending the money that doesn’t necessarily need to be spent. Or maybe there are other cost effective ways to still get what you want that doesn’t have to hurt your wallet.
Tom: And being February, most people with gym memberships probably aren’t using them already. I guess that also means focusing on what matters to you, like deciding you’re not using that gym membership but you really want a trip. Or it’s a car or something. You’re refocusing between these two steps to get somewhere with your money. It’s not that you don’t get any of your wants; it’s just that you think about what it is you want in advance.
Sandy: Exactly. One of my other favorite personal finance authors is, Shannon Lee Simmons. She helps her readers understand how to rate their spending on a happiness scale. Say you enjoy dining out, on a scale of 1 to 5, one being what you’re spending your money on makes you really unhappy, whereas 5 is makes you super happy, you can always reach whatever you spend on that scale of happiness. That will show you where you can focus your time and attention on.
Tom: I like that. That’s a good way to look at it. That way you’re not repeating the same mistakes over and over with your money. Next up we have, Know Where You Stand Financially. What is this? Is it writing everything down? Is it budgeting? How do you picture this one?
Sandy: There are a couple of steps to do this. My husband, Albert, and I opened up an Excel sheet and created a monthly/annual budget that tracks our expenses and savings. We also have a net worth sheet. That way we can calculate (over time) whether our net worth is increasing or decreasing. Hopefully, it’s increasing. We even keep track of our investments such as RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan) and TFSA (Tax Free Savings Account) which is available to Canadians over the age of 18. And, as I mentioned before, at the end of the month, hopefully, you have a surplus of money. That way you can spend it on whatever makes you happy.
Tom: So you use an Excel spreadsheet. I’ve always been a big fan of Mint, but I’m starting to wonder if I’m right about that because I’m starting to see the benefit of being a little more hands on with budgeting. Is that why you guys went with the spreadsheet?
Sandy: That’s really interesting because we have a Google Share document that has all the different tabs for our budget, net worth, investments and whatnot. But then recently, because we have our full-time income and rental property income we need to keep track of, and our book and speaking business and everything, we are trying to find a software tool or app that can help us keep track of it without manually doing it. We recently signed onto Mint. I used it years ago. Then, of course, I couldn’t keep up with it. But now we’re exploring Mint to try to see if we can combine everything to have those handy reports and ee those statistics in nice charts. That’s something we’re kind of exploring. We’re kind of doing the opposite of you.
Tom: Yeah, I’ve used it forever and I probably will still continue to. I just mean, in general, it seems that having a little more involvement with it would be better. I’m looking into YNAB (You Need A Budget) as well. It’s just as another option. It might be that middle road where it’s a little more active with your software but it still pulls it all together for you.
Sandy: Yeah, I heard really good things about You Need A Budget. Right now we’re just exploring Mint to see if it’s something that will work for us. But with the Excel document, we probably update it maybe once every quarter or so when things change or fluctuate. But it’s good because you have that flexibility. We can adapt it to our needs and add different categories and whatnot. But, it is a simple Excel sheet.
Tom: Our next step is five; increase our earnings. This is one near and dear to my heart because I think most of my finances got fixed by increasing my earnings. I did the whole trying to set your thermostat down a couple degrees, not using as much water, changing the taps so they’re low-flow and everything, and I wasn’t seeing any gains. There is only so far you can go with that. But the option to increase your earnings seems basically endless. What’s your advice for someone looking to do this?
Sandy: For this step, I’d really encourage people to think about what kind of skills or talents they already have and how they can use that to good use by generating additional income to what they’re already currently doing. Especially, nowadays where having a part-time business or a side-hustle is very common. There’s millions of Canadians doing it. Even something as simple as doing Uber or if you have an extra bedroom in your home you can rent it out on airbnb. If you don’t want to start from scratch you can always use an existing platform and take advantage of that. A good friend of mine does these really cool city skylines and sells pillows and artwork pieces. I think that’s a great way to just do something that you’re passionate about and also open up an additional stream of income. The reason I say that is because, nowadays, with only one source of income, a lot of people can’t really—I don’t want to say they can’t survive but with living expenses increasing year after year and inflation, I think people can take advantage of all of the technology, tools and resources we have to start their own business, especially if it’s something they feel that they have the time and energy to do.
Tom: Yeah, I agree. Everyone should have some kind of side-hustle. It even makes you more confident and secure at a day job. Speaking of which, say if someone wants to increase their earnings, obviously, there are things they can do at their job too; try to get that promotion or at least make a good case to get a raise. I mentioned on the podcast before, I don’t remember the exact amount but it was at least a $10,000 raise I got just by making a good case for it. I probably was a little underpaid at the time so it wasn’t too difficult a conversation to have. But sometimes, even in your career you just have to put yourself out there a bit.
Sandy: Yes, that’s a fantastic point. For me, when I was starting out in my 20s, I felt it was so intimidating to ask for a raise. Oftentimes I’d have my annual performance review and I’d just be too scared to ask for a raise. I’ve read, Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg, who focuses a lot on women in corporate leadership. She talks about gender differences where men (who feel they need to ask for a raise) go in with confidence and bargain. Whereas, women often tend to maybe have self doubts or feel the salary they’re currently getting is the best they can get. They don’t even fight for a raise. After reading that, I feel it’s important for the women out there who are listening, to go out there and really show what your value is—what your talents are and what you bring to the table. Because we know that even in Canada, there’s a gender wage gap. I think that’s all the more reason to fight to show that need to get paid what you’re worth.
Tom: For sure. I agree. That’s probably one of the bigger reasons for a wage gap. I may be male but I did feel that way. It wasn’t common for me to go and ask for a raise. This was one really interesting day where I just really felt like I could make this case. I went a few years thinking I was underpaid compared to everyone else and didn’t know what to do about it. It just took something to switch on. And maybe that goes back to the mindset idea where it just sort of came together to ask for this if I wanted to get it.
Sandy: Exactly. Yeah, I totally agree.
Tom: The next step is interesting. Step six is, generate massive passive income. What is that? What kind of passive income are we talking here?
Sandy: Well, there are two different types of passive income. You’ve got your passive income investments. These could be what you get when you invest in the stock market. You have dividends or the interest you earn. Or even the rental income. My husband and I have a few condo units we rent out so we rely on that passive income to help grow our financial portfolio. Then you can even have passive business income; say with a restaurant franchise (for instance) which requires quite a bit of capital in addition to time and effort for at least three to five years. Once you’ve got your staff working for you and everything’s running like clockwork, you’ve created passive income.
Tom: With your rentals are you hiring out the work involved or are you still in the trenches there?
Sandy: We live in the North York area of Toronto and have one unit in the Distillery District, which is just east of downtown Toronto. Then we have another condo unit in the north end of the city. About a year ago we decided that the one downtown would be a bit of a trek for us because my husband works out in Brampton, which is probably a good hour and a half drive just to get to the condo unit. We did hire a property management company for a one-year term but kind of had mixed results with them. We had a number issues and just felt they weren’t as pumped with providing solutions or fixing things. We just felt it better for us to take the reins and be more hands on working directly with our tenants. That was our experience but I think it really depends on who you hire and what level of service they provide. And, of course, when you do hire property manager, yes, it’s a bit more hands off and they’re also taking a cut of your rental income. It’s a bit of a give and take.
Tom: Everything you said is how I picture things. I did have a great episode with Dustin Heiner people can go back and find (in a past episode) where he opened my eyes a little bit about just how passive rental income can be—which surprised me. He’s got property managers he trusts who work well with him. He’ll buy brand new properties (new to him) where he’s got his real estate agents, property managers…where everything’s kind of done. He’s really taken it to the passive side, for rentals. I know with a lot of these passive incomes like franchises, you can get into that whole argument of what passive is but I think we can all agree that it is income that’s a lot more self-propelled than punching a clock at a day job. It’s something where you can continually make money even if you have staff there while you’re not. For your final step you have, create multiple streams of income. What kind of streams are we looking at?
Sandy: There are so many different options. In my book I do provide a really cool graphic that has all the different types that you can look into.
Tom: I won’t make you list them all but could you give us a general idea of what you mean by these multiple streams?
Sandy: The most common ones I cover are investing in the stock market, investing in real estate and even affiliate marketing for the people who like blogging. Oh goodness, there are so many. If you’re really great at teaching, you can become a tutor. And yeah, writing or consulting. Having multiple streams of income provides you with a safety net. Because, if you just have one source of income like a full-time job with an employer, you never know, they could be downsizing. It’s tough when you’re putting all your eggs in one basket, whereas, if you have multiple streams of income you’ve got many safety nets. And it’s encouraging too because once you take time to work all the different types of streams of income you bring in, it can be very rewarding over a period of time.
Tom: This kind of what I was alluding to earlier with the career and a side-hustle. It makes you feel so much more confident. Even in my career, I became a better employee because I didn’t have this fear. I was going through all these restructures on an annual basis and I didn’t care about that. I could do my job and it wasn’t a distraction. If I were to lose my job, I knew I had something else. I like this idea that the more multiple streams you have, the better. Maybe you’re earning $200 to $500 driving for Uber, investing that and earning dividends. The more levels you have there, the less you have to worry about any individual one. Like your investments themselves, the more diversified you are, the safer you are.
Sandy: Yes, I totally agree.
Tom: Well, this has been great. Thanks for walking through this. I thought it was an interesting chapter on financial habits. It was good to go through it step-by-step. Can you let people know where they can find you and tell them about the book?
Sandy: Sure. People can find me on my website at sandyyong.com. And you can find me on all social media platforms. My book, The Money Master, which has been recently published, helps millennials trade a six figure portfolio through multiple streams of income. If you would like to purchase a copy of my book, you can go to my website. I’m really happy to announce that I am partnered with CAMH, which is the Center of Addiction and Mental Health. So, for every book purchased, I will personally donate $2 to this charity to help support mental health research.
Tom: That sounds great. Thanks for being on the show.
Sandy: Thank you, Tom.
Thanks, Sandy, for showing us how we can overcome the many roadblocks standing between us and financial success. You can find the show notes for this episode at maplemoney.com/sandyyong. Are you a member of the Maple Money Facebook community? If not, I’d love to connect with you there. It’s a great place to ask a question or share a recent money win to encourage others. To join, head over to moneymaple.com/community to share with the group. As always, thank you for listening. I look forward to seeing you back here next week.