March 2018 - Smart Money Seed

3/27/18

My Newbie Travel Hacking Journey Part 1

3/27/2018
The BLUF: I'm tired of Ty being the only one bragging about all of these awesome travel perks. I'm joining the travel hacking squad and I'm going to bring you on my journey!

3/27/18

What's up Smart Money Squad!! I'm not sure about you guys, but every time I read one of Ty's #MileageMonday articles I can't figure out why I haven't started taking advantage of these awesome travel tips.

Tons of miles, points, free flights, hotels, airport lounge access, and the list goes on! Trust me, I've told Ty multiple times to his face that this all seems too good to be true. There's gotta be a catch or this must be a scam, right? But every week he comes back with another awesome article showing the legitimacy of travel hacking and why you should be taking advantage of it.

So here it goes... I'm starting my travel hacking journey, and I want to bring you along for every step.

What convinced me to travel hack?

I'm ready to start making travel more accessible. Recently Rosie and I have been looking at honeymoon options, and some locations would require long flights such as somewhere in Europe. 

(p.s. If you have any awesome honeymoon ideas, send them our way!!)

One of the first things I would do after discovering a new location was check flight prices. It's not uncommon for round-trip prices overseas to far exceed a few thousand bucks. Once you factor in other items like lodging and food, the overall trip becomes pretty expensive in a hurry, especially when you still have a wedding to pay for!!

Rosie and I both have a desire to travel the world. We realize that as young adults now is one of the best times for big trips, so it really bothered me that travel prices were potentially prohibiting us from seeing the world.

Cue travel hacking.

Why travel hack? I want to spend more time building sandmen on the beach.


What are my travel hacking goals?

I have two initial goals that I'm hoping to achieve:

  • Earn the Southwest Companion Pass
  • Earn airline miles that will help pay for a honeymoon flight
Over the next few years, Rosie and I have plans to take a handful of small trips in the U.S. for vacations with ourselves, family, and friends. Rosie flying for free on those trips? Let's go!! Not to mention getting to use all of the points you rack up when you achieve the Companion Pass. Ty is right, this is a coveted travel perk for a reason.

Second, I want to be able to plan a honeymoon without worrying about the super expensive flights. Our honeymoon is still over a year away though, so I'm not going after points for that trip quite yet.

What cards did I apply for?

To accomplish my first goal I applied for two Chase Southwest Rewards cards. Need a refresher on how this works? Look no further: #MileageMonday Chase Southwest

I personally applied for the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus card and the Southwest Rapid Premier Business card... and got accepted for both!

I was accepted for the Plus card almost instantly (woohoo!), and I was accepted for the Business card in less than a day. All I had to do was answer a call from a Chase representative and tell them about Smart Money Seed!


How am I feeling?

I'm not going to lie, this has been a mix of emotions for me!

I am pretty pumped to start earning these rewards points. I can't wait to see what sort of travel options may be feasible for us to explore. I'm also excited to see my credit score go up; responsible credit use is a great way to improve your score!

Until it's all said and done, I won't be able to help but to be a little anxious. This is uncharted territory for me, and doing things like opening a new credit card can be scary. I'm a pretty conservative person, so even if Ty holds my hand the entire way, I'm probably going to feel a little uneasy. 

But you know what? Riding a bike without training wheels for the first time is a little uneasy too.

What's next?

First I need to wait and receive the cards in the mail, but then comes the most unfamiliar territory: manufactured spending. To rack up these bonuses I'm going to need to meet the spending thresholds, and to do so I'm going follow Ty's advice in How to Vacation Like a Baller.

Don't worry, once I get to that step I'll let you know what I'm doing and how I'm doing it. I'll be your living proof that this is legit, legal, and not a scam whatsoever!

I can't wait to share the rest of my experience with you. You'll be hearing from me again soon!

3/23/18

Grow Outside of your Comfort Zone

3/23/2018
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Oh hey, Smart Money Squad! For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kayleigh (aka KB). I’m the lucky girl that’s marrying Ty - and in turn, kinda marrying Alex and Christian because they talk so much and spend so much time formulating ideas for Smart Money Seed.


Anywho, today I’m going to share a story about how I took charge of my career, pursued something different, and how beneficial it was for me as a young professional.

I will start off this article by saying that I am fortunate to work for a great company that encourages exploration of areas outside of our own. I’ve worked for the same retail company since my summer internship before senior year. I’m sure everyone can relate to that exciting moment you accept a job offer after some intense interviews. I’m sure you can also relate to those days you sit in your cube and think…

I worked so hard throughout college for this?

I was comfortable, and as much as I love my comfort zone, I knew I could grow outside of it. Marketing was my major and I really wanted to move toward digital marketing in particular. This article has some of the lessons I learned along the way as I pursued a different job. While my experience was unique because I stayed within my company, there are still lessons that could be applied anywhere!
Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my first job and all of my coworkers. It was an amazing job that taught me so much about the business. However, I found myself beginning to crave a different experience than the store communications role I was in. If you're like me & struggle to break out of your comfort zone, here's a few lessons I learned from my personal experience that proved valuable in the long run.

Lesson #1: Be open and intentional about your career goals with your boss

Would you think I was crazy If I told you that I went into a weekly meeting with my boss and my agenda looked like this:

1.     I found this cool job description online. I want to do this job. Oh, and, it’s not what I’m doing right now.

In hindsight, maybe a totally different job description put in front of your boss isn’t the best way to go.  However,  having an open conversation about your interests, what you see yourself doing and WHY you’re interested in an opportunity is a great start. It could feel awkward at first. Ok… it is awkward. Once you get past the awkwardness, they may help you find different projects or opportunities at work in your area of interest.

Lesson #2: Find people that do something that interests you…and meet with them

Have you ever sat in a meeting with someone and thought, “wow, what they’re talking about is really cool”? This is the perfect opportunity to build a professional relationship with someone and learn about what they do! There’s nothing wrong with following up after a meeting and asking if they could meet for 15 minutes to talk about their role. Most people love helping younger people, and like to talk about themselves (or their job if you're asking!)

Interested in an industry outside of the one you’re currently in? LinkedIn is your best friend for connecting with other professionals! Make sure your profile is updated with not only your job descriptions, but your overall career goals so that your connections know where you see your career going.

I ended up meeting with the hiring manager of that job description I mentioned before, just to get a feel for what being on that side of the business entailed. I had specific questions about the role, the team and the industry to gain a better understanding of the work.

Informational interviews can be just as important to prepare for, and all the same rules as a formal job interview apply. You never know when that new connection you made will come in handy! Below are some questions you could consider…


  •        How long have you been in the industry?
  •        What trends are you seeing that could impact how this work gets done?
  •       What traits or experiences would make someone successful in your area?

And yes, thank you notes are still strongly encouraged for informational interviews!

Lesson #3: Stay patient

It’s really easy for us as young professionals to decide we want something and want to make it happen right away.  In the months after my meeting with the hiring manager for the digital marketing role I was interested in, I continued to express interest to my manager and asked for opportunities to gain exposure to that area wherever possible.

It wasn’t until about 8 months later that a position came open on that exact same team, and I was lucky enough to interview and get the job! In today’s day and age, 8 months seems like a lifetime but as cheesy as it sounds, anything worth having is worth the wait. 

Recap

It’s easy to stay comfortable in your current job and run through the motions, but when you get that itch to do something different, follow your gut and do it! I have learned so much and been provided so many cool experiences after taking that step outside of my comfort zone. And, most importantly, I have a totally refreshed view of putting in those 40 hours a week.

Hopefully this article has given you confidence and advice!  (or just something to think about the next time you're second guessing yourself in your cubicle)

Until next time,

Kayleigh



3/17/18

How Long Would It Take To Buy Really Cool Shit?

3/17/2018
Forbes recently released their latest billionaire list which included 2,208 billionaires with a collective net worth of $9.1 TRILLION! Let's all take a moment and say a prayer for Bill Gates who was leapfrogged for the top spot by Jeff Bezos who nonchalantly added about $30 billion in net worth in the past year.

Another day, another 82 million dollars -- am I right?

Since Smart Money Seed is still a few years away from amassing a billion dollar valuation, we decided to have a little fun and dream about what a massive amount of wealth could possibly bring. But we're not interested in the desires of peasants. We're talking about really cool shit.

Let's Make Some Assumptions

First, we have to set a starting point. Let's assume we make $50k a year and will average 3% raises in perpetuity. We'll also assume we can live and work forever because I'm sure at some point we'll have enough money to bargain with God for our immortality.

Let's also assume we'll continue to live off of $50k per year forever and will invest the rest of our money in the stock market earning 10% annual returns. We won't have many recurring expenses once we already own all the shit we use.

 Finally, our favorite assumption is that taxes don't exist. I'm not nearly smart enough to try and factor in taxes to our calculations, but our accountant is plenty smart and just shady enough to setup some sweet tax evasion strategies for us!

To recap:
  • $50k starting salary
  • 3% annual raises
  • $50k annual expenses
  • All money beyond $50k is invested
  • Investments earn 10% returns
  • Immortality. No biggie
  • NO TAXES!

What Really Cool Shit Should We Buy??

If I were ultra-rich, I'd want the following luxuries available to me:
  • Unlimited travel
  • Unlimited communication
  • A badass place to live
  • Unlimited awesome entertainment
  • Food. Lots of food
  • Beer. Lots of beer
  • Menial things to keep myself entertained during my travel
I think that would pretty much cover my basic needs. If I forgot something, let me know and I'll update the article!

How Much Money Will We Have?

Calculations made using The Calculator Site









Milestone recap:
  • Year 37 brings us into the top 1% off the world's wealthiest people according to Investopedia.
  • Congratulations everyone -- we're millionaires in year 40! Most people would be tempted to retire after 40 years, but not us. we've got really cool shit to buy.
  • Year 59 brings us into the USA's top 1% at over $7 million again according to Investopedia.
  • $113 billion in year 108 makes us the world's richest person (assuming they don't get any richer). Suck it, Bezos!
  • Although the world has never seen a trillionaire, we're the second in history to hit a quadrillion bucks thanks to Paypal.

How Much Money Will We Need?

Let's take a look at exactly what we want to buy and what that might set us back.
  • Unlimited Travel 
Of course we're going to need a plane, and we're not going to stop at anything short of the greatest luxury available. That's right, folks we're buying Air Force One for a cool $660 million. But everyone knows we can't have just one Air Force One or else people will know our whereabouts at all times. Two Air Force One's will set us back $1.32 billion. That's conceivable in this lifetime at 112 years, but we better get crackin on those immortality negotiations with The Big Man.

We'll stop short of buying the most expensive car ever sold, but we're definitely going to need this $14 million McLaren. And of course we're going to need some fuel for all that travel. I know the perfect $33 billion oil company we can buy. Looks like all my coworkers at Marathon work for me now!

Travel Cost: $34.334 billion
Total Cost: $34.334 billion
  • Unlimited Communication
We won't have the freedom to do everything we want without owning the two most powerful communication companies I can think of, Verizon and Apple. Verizon comes cheap at only $200 billion. Apple is going to necessitate a conversation with our financial advisor as that $900 billion check might set us back a bit.

Communication Cost: $1.1 trillion
Total Cost: $1.134 trillion
  • A Badass Place To Live
We're really not going to want people bothering us with all this wealth. A wise man once said, "No new friends." But we really don't want to move, so we're staying right here in the good old US of A. Sorry, but everyone else is getting their asses kicked out. I hear Canada is really nice this time of year.

I'll admit my reference here is a bit sketchy, but Carter Moore helped us out via Quora. The price tag of the United States? Just $46 trillion. Psh -- we'll have that and more well before our 250th birthday. We'll also need a replica of the world's most expensive home, clocking in at $300 million. That doesn't even hardly become a factor in our calculation.

Living Cost: $46 trillion
Total Cost: $47.134 trillion
  • Unlimited Entertainment
There's just no debate here. We're going to have to buy the Disney parks. Josh Arnold from Seeking Alpha estimated Disney's parks segment to be valued at $38 billion. Chump change.

Entertainment Cost: $38 billion
Total Cost: $47.172 trillion
  • Food & Beer
Quite possibly the first purchase I'd make on this entire journey is Chipotle for $9 billion. Another $218 billion nets us Anheuser-Busch InBev -- another easy decision.

Food & Beer Cost: $227 billion
Total Cost: $47.399 trillion
  • Menial Things
I'll take one of everything on Amazon, please. Again we're relying on Quora, and this time it's Kynan Eng to the rescue. $12.86 billion dollars is an absolute steal!

Menial Things Cost: $12.86 billion
Total Cost: $47.412 trillion

We didn't even need to be quadrillionaires to buy everything we wanted! You can't buy happiness, but at 216 years old, we'll have $50 trillion at our disposal to buy everything we could possibly want. Give us a few years to enjoy the things we've worked so hard for, and maybe around 500 years old or so we'll talk to God about getting out of the immortality contract.

I know what you're thinking right now. Wow, what an incredible waste of time. Alex must live such a sad life. Sure, maybe I should find better ways to spend my time on a Saturday. But if I made you smile at least once, I'll consider this article a success. And if you smiled, I'm sure someone else would appreciate you sharing this with them and making them smile too!

3/12/18

Entrepreneurship Conversation 2: The Tattoo Factory's Brenton Potter

3/12/2018
Huge thanks to Brenton Potter for an awesome interview!



Take a moment and remember your first couple years after high school. Maybe you were just starting out with your first real world job, maybe you were furthering your education through college or trade school, or maybe you spent some time searching for a way to both pursue your passion and put food on your table.

In any case, those first few years can be spent with much soul searching, and the pressure both internally and externally to figure out what you want to do and how you want to live can be stressful.

Brenton Potter's timeline looked like this:
  • 2008 November - Started tattooing
  • 2009 May - Graduated high school
  • 2009 July - Finished apprenticeship
  • 2010 June - Purchased The Tattoo Factory
For those of you keeping score at home, that's only 19 MONTHS from tattooing his 1st client to owning a tattoo shop. What an absolute whirlwind!

From Art On Cars To Art On People

Brenton, squeamish as a child, spent much of his youth "turned off by the idea of the [tattooing] process." Becoming a tattoo artist wasn't exactly at the top of the list of his hopes and dreams his entire life. "I don't actually ever remember making the conscious decision to become a tattoo artist."

But the creative side of life always had a special appeal to Brenton, starting with pinstripers and sign painters.

"My dad's a big old school car guy, and he drug me around to a lot of car shows and stuff when I was younger. And I was always fascinated by the guys with the big handlebar mustache and the top hat, and. . . they'd have paint all over the front of their jeans and their overalls. I just liked the idea of how like rockabilly and kind of punk rock that was that these guys were just walking around with a hand full of cash and a wagon full of paint. So I kind of at that point thought it would be really cool to do something like that. . . So that's when I started taking art a little more seriously"

So how exactly does an affinity for art on cars become a passion for art on skin. . . permanently. . . using needles. . . for a squeamish kid?

"Around the time I started tattooing, tattooing was becoming a little bit more popular. . . I remember kids coming to school [who would] go out and get their own tattoos, and I remember seeing them and thinking 'Man, it'd be really cool to have one.' So I decided to get one. And when I went into the tattoo shop and got one, it was like this was what I was missing. The feeling, the smells, once again the punk rock-ness of just like not having a real solid structure. It was just a cool environment."

Brenton Potter: Tattoo Artist

As Brenton was reaching that oh so joyous (read: dreaded and stressful) time of deciding what to do with his life after school, tattooing began to have a growing appeal to him.

"My dad would always ask me throughout my teenage years 'Where do you want to go to school? What do you want to do?' And I never really had an an answer for him. So one day it just sparked. I thought 'man, maybe this was really a route I could take.' I always considered myself to be creative, so I thought I could apply that to maybe this avenue of work."

So Brenton took action. He started taking steps to pursue his relatively new dream of becoming a tattoo artist. "I was still in high school, I had just turned 18, and honestly I thought that [tattooing] was going to. . . make me cool. . . You know, something out of the ordinary that would make me stand out in the crowd a little bit."

But of course Brenton's journey was not exactly all sunshine and rainbows. 

"I actually got a lot of ridicule from classmates, colleagues, family, and people that now support me and take me seriously. But at the time, it was kind of a joke. But, I fell in love with it. So I got into it for seemingly the wrong reasons. And then very shortly I felt like it was . . . something I could dedicate a lot of my time and energy towards."

Learning The Tricks Of The Trade

Brenton's journey toward becoming a tattoo artist did not begin in a classroom with a formal application process or a certified trainer. Brenton explained, "Tattooing is really weird because it's one of the last remaining career paths that has a true apprenticeship. And it's. . . like a secret society almost or like a club."

Brenton understands that although he has worked incredibly hard to build what he's built, there was certainly a stroke of luck contributing to beginning his journey. "I honestly probably shouldn't have been given the opportunity. At the time I didn't know a lot about tattooing, the history of tattooing. I probably couldn't even name 5 famous tattoo artists. But the guys that took me in were looking for someone, and I just happened to be there in the right place at the right time. . . So I feel very blessed that I got in when I got in."

This apprenticeship process can be extremely stressful for someone not only learning a new skill but having to find a way to put food on the table. "I spent a year doing an apprenticeship which is 40 hours a week that you don't get paid for. Luckily at the time I lived with my mom. . . I did work 2 other jobs during my apprenticeship and went to school for the first half of the year." 

Talk about work ethic and dedication!

Brenton's not necessarily certain his path would've played out exactly how it did in today's environment, so he's offered some advice for aspiring tattoo artists. "Typically how you would get into something like this is being a well-rounded artist. . . having a portfolio of paintings, drawings, digital media. . . and then presenting that to a place that's either looking for an apprentice or a place that you're interested in the people who work there and apprenticing under."

The beginning period of Brenton's apprenticeship was spent learning all the menial tasks that an aspiring tattoo artist isn't exactly dreaming of doing, including learning "how to clean up, setup, tear down for the artist that you're apprenticing under. You would learn how to interact with customers, all of the work that nobody wants to do -- answer emails, answer messages, mop floors, stay late."

Finally, this arduous and seemingly endless process of learning about the equipment mixed with grunt work leads to actually beginning to practice as a tattoo artist. "Once you get to a point where you're comfortable with your machines and your devices that you would use to tattoo, and you're well-rounded enough in the art that you do, that's when you start doing small tattoos."

Being the canvas for a new tattoo artist's first tattoo seems like a scary thought I would think most people would want to avoid. But Brenton is grateful for his friend group's confidence in him which allowed him to hit the ground running.

"Luckily for me, I had a lot of friends that were very confident in me -- probably a little more confident than they should've been in the beginning. . . Usually during an apprenticeship, every tattoo you do is overseen by your mentor. . . The ultimate goal is never to have somebody leave with a bad tattoo, obviously."

11 Months From Tattoo Artist To Business Owner

Brenton's apprenticeship ended in July of 2009, and he purchased The Tattoo Factory in June of
2010. Let's take a moment to reflect on what an amazing accomplishment that was especially considering that Brenton had just worked 40 hours a week unpaid for a full year!

Although Brenton explains that the industry is moving toward collective groups of tattoo artists gathering under one roof to provide a well-rounded set of styles and services for prospective customers, he did have aspirations of owning his own shop from the beginning.

"At the time, I would've said that [owning my own shop] was something that I wanted to do, but I think it happened a little bit sooner than I probably would've liked it to. I'm glad it did -- it worked out for me. But ideally that wasn't the way I would've liked it to go. . . But it's worked out. . . It's been a great 8 years."

Brenton's business acquisition and subsequent work as a business owner did not come with a handbook or any sort of formal business training. "I acquired the business in a really roundabout way. Some things happened between the old ownership that allowed me to come in and take over where they left off. . . Once I took it over, I vividly remember. . . coming in and hanging things up on the wall. . . and I remember looking at my mom and telling her 'I have no idea what I'm doing.' And she owned a business at the time, so that was a nice help. . . But she had never had any formal business training, and I hadn't either. So it was kind of the blind leading the blind."

Although that process must've been incredibly difficult and frustrating at times, Brenton speaks of it with a sense of calm perspective. "I think you just kind of grow and you learn as you go. Sometimes you have to fall flat on your face to stand back up and make something out of it. It was a very rough time. There were plenty of days where I was very discouraged, my pockets were empty, and I didn't know what my next move was gonna be."

How did Brenton overcome this turbulent period in his journey? Plain and simple: hard work. "The good thing about tattooing is it knows no boundaries. If you have to tattoo at 2 in the morning to make money, or if you have to tattoo at 9 in the morning to make money, it's normally there for you to do that. So it's all based on your own personal work ethic. I busted my ass. I still am probably now more than ever. But at the time, I did everything I did to keep things going."

Of course Brenton is extremely appreciative and complimentary of Tori Robinson, the only other artist on staff at the time who remains on Brenton's team to this day. "With the help of Tori. . . she was a huge help, we made it happen in some way, shape, or form."

Managing & Growing The Tattoo Factory

The Tattoo Factory pays homage to
 its Bucyrus roots
Brenton utilized some networking collaboration opportunities with a shop in Mansfield to help build
his out of town clientele which he estimates makes up about 60% of his business. He also utilized the power of social media. "Social networking has been huge for tattooing. . . Instagram and Facebook were really big. . . And that was huge because you could market to people who maybe didn't know we were here. . . So I spent a lot of my time on social media trying to market to the particular kind of clientele that I wanted to gain. And I did rely a lot on the repeat customers that we had."

As Brenton has worked to find that perfect formula to lead his business to success, his focus has shifted from learning how to manage and market a business to learning how to become a more well-rounded artist and provide an exceptional quality of work.

"I got tattooed by a tattooer that I've idolized for quite some time, and I talked to him about some things. And I realized that trying to gain followers on social media and trying to create this image for yourself on social media in order to get the people to walk in the door is not the way to go for tattooing. That may work for some other form of business, but with tattooing if you just. . . put the time and effort that you need into painting and drawing and producing good art and good tattoos, the money will come. . . So once I realized that just producing the best possible work that I could produce and not focusing so much on being online and creating this certain persona for myself wasn't the answer, that's when things started to get better for me."

The Tattoo Factory has really begin to pickup steam and gain some positive momentum, which Brenton estimates started to break through around 2 years ago. "I still sometimes look back and wonder, 'How did these these things happen? How did I get to this point, or how did something that I sat and drew in my bedroom become so popular?' It's still very surreal sometimes -- it's a very surreal feeling to know that people are coming in sometimes from as far away as Canada to get tattooed and to wear something that you created out of your brain and off your hands. It's sometimes unfathomable."

Brenton is still blown away by the level of outreach and recognition The Tattoo Factory has been able to achieve. "I was in Pittsburgh one time. . . and there was a guy at the bar that recognized me from Instagram, and it was like 'Man, this is insane.' You don't really realize how many people see the things that you put out there and appreciate them even from afar. So things like that are crazy sometimes."

The most frustrating part of Brenton's journey as a business owner? "I hate being a boss. That's really hard for me just because I like to treat people the way I would like to be treated. As tattooers, we all have this we're our own boss sort of complex. Not in an arrogant way, but in a we kind of stay in our own lane and do our own thing kind of way. . . So it's always been hard for me to say 'Hey, I need you guys to mop the floor. . . Do this. . . Don't do that.'"

Despite plenty of opportunities to make money doing something against Brenton's value system, he has remained focused on doing his due diligence and staying true to himself.

"Doing your research is a big thing because people will ask for certain symbolization that you may not know the meaning behind. Whether it's gang related or sacrilegious or whatever the case may be, it's important to know what those things are so that you can deny them accordingly or accept them accordingly. . . We try to keep an eye on those sort of things, and we try to be a moral compass for younger people that are maybe making some bad decisions. . . For whatever reason having crappy face tattoos has become a trend recently. . . But we try to be a moral compass for those people and try to talk them out of it. At the end of the day, if they want it tattooed, somebody will tattoo it on them. But I can go to sleep at night knowing that I didn't take their money and do a morally wrong tattoo on them."

If I walked into The Tattoo Factory drunk on a Friday night for a face tattoo, Brenton might not exactly take me to Tim Horton's for a coffee, but he will deny me a tattoo and send me on back to Baker's or Dillinger's for another drink.

The Future Of The Tattoo Factory & Brenton Potter

Although The Tattoo Factory has been gaining momentum, Brenton stays humble and true to his roots. Brenton speaks often of his humble beginnings which have led to his somewhat conservative nature. Candidly, I'm not certain Brenton fully realizes the level of success he's been able to attain and what doors that success may open to him in the future.

"This right now is the most I've ever had, and I know what it took to get here. So I'm constantly working to maintain that. . . This isn't something that I feel like I'm ever going to be rich from. I don't think tattooing will make me a millionaire. But it makes me happy. And I can make a comfortable enough living to run a business, have employees, and maintain a good life for me and my family. And I don't know really what can get better than that."

In 5 years, Brenton wants to focus on travel and outreach. "I work with a group called The Ink Fusion Empire. . . That opens a lot of opportunities to meet people. Last year, I worked 2 Ohio shows and a Florida show. This year, I'm going to work Cincinnati, the Florida show again, and then a Boston show. It's cool because each year you tattoo a handful of people there, and they maybe tell their friends about you. So you build a mini clientele in each city that you go to where you're either tattooing the same people or friends of theirs. . . And I can bring my family too, and they can kind of enjoy it."

Brenton's commitment when discussing future plans never wavers from his strong values. "If you just produce good things and you're good to your people, the money will come, and the money will grow. . . My eye is not always on the money. It's more on the experience for the person and the experience for myself. The money is just a bonus."

As Brenton contemplates his long-term future, again the themes of strong values and personal interaction remain prevalent. "I like to be alongside my people. I know a lot of business owners especially in tattooing come in, and they collect their money, and they bounce. They've got 10 guys working for them, and they work on a 50% cut. I've never been that kind of person. I kind of like to be the captain that's on the ship, driving the ship, right next to the people rowing the oars."

Advice & Reflection


Brenton encourages young people looking to pursue tattooing to work to understand the challenges that come with tattooing rather than just the positives. "Your whole life becomes tattooing. It's hard especially in a small town to go to the grocery store or to go to Baker's and have a drink without someone basically stripping down taking their shirt off and saying 'Hey man, what can you do with this?' I've actually had friends tell me they don't like going out with me because I get stopped constantly."

"It is a very fun thing for me now, and I enjoy it very much. But it took a long time to get that comfortable. There's a lot of hard work involved in getting to that point."

If given the opportunity to go back and change something or give a younger version of himself some advice, he would focus more on learning how to save money. "I've become more or less a money hoarder in order to make sure that everything is taken care of."

The single thing that Brenton attributes most to his success to this point? "I think just being a good, morally driven, well-accommodating person in general. . . I think just like being a part of the community, staying grounded here even when there's temptation to go maybe to a bigger city or to maybe have a full, yer-round travel schedule. I think people can appreciate that you're born and raised here, you grew your business here, and you're staying local and giving back to people."

Keep Up With Brenton & The Tattoo Factory!

If you want to keep in touch with Brenton and follow his journey, you can find him on Instagram where he has over 7k followers! You can also keep up with The Tattoo Factory on Facebook where they have over 3k followers.

We would appreciate it so much if you could let us all know what you thought of this interview! Have more questions for Brenton? I'm sure he'd be more than happy to answer them. If you enjoyed Brenton's story, give him a shout out and share this story with a friend! 

3/5/18

Liberate Your Wallet With Chase's Freedom Cards

3/05/2018


It’s Monday, Monday, gotta read my #MileageMonday…that’s how that song goes, right?

If my memory serves correctly, I promised to give you guys some great insight to the travel hacking community every Monday. With some people out of the office, I had to cover some extra work but the hustle NEVER STOPS! We are going to keep bringing you guys great content & save you some major COIN while we’re at it. You’ve got no excuse not to read.

Shake off the Sunday scaries, strap on your work boots & let’s get to business. Time to kick off another #MileageMonday! In this week’s installment, we are going to continue our Chase breakdown of the 6 major Chase-branded credit cards. I have a handful of these cards and they have become my go-to cards because they provide more value than most cards on the market. If you need a refresher, here’s my definition of the Chase credit card family:
  • Premium Cards
    • Chase Sapphire Preferred
    • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Everyday Cards
    • Chase Freedom
    • Chase Freedom Unlimited
  • Business Cards
    • Chase Ink Plus
    • Chase Ink Cash
We already covered the premium cards a few weeks ago. Chase’s Sapphire cards are some of the most coveted on the market for their robust benefit offerings & ability to transfer points to travel partners. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the cards I keep in my arsenal for the 2x dining & travel points. However, what if I told you that you could get 5x points on certain categories? How about 1.5% cash back on EVERYTHING?

That’s where the Chase “Everyday” cards come in. Smart Money Squad, allow me to introduce you to the Chase Freedom & Chase Freedom Unlimited! As a quick note-we don't get paid to advertise these cards. If you'd like to help support the blog & you are interested in getting one of these cards, sign up under our referral links here:

Chase Freedom-Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.

Chase Freedom Unlimited-Earn $150 after spending $500 in the first 3 months from account opening.

Thanks for supporting us-now on to the good stuff!

Chase Freedom

The Chase Freedom will always have a soft spot in my heart. As a senior in college, I finally bit the bullet & pulled the trigger on my first-ever credit card. I was looking for something straightforward that would give me some solid cash back-and that’s EXACTLY what the Chase Freedom is. It stands to reason that the Chase Freedom is one of the best introductory cards on the market for anybody looking to build their credit or ease in to the credit card world. Here’s a quick breakdown of some of the perks the Chase Freedom offers:
  • Earn $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • No annual fee!
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1500 in bonus categories each quarter.
  • Earn 1% cash back on all other purchases.
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back!

At a glance, this card certainly doesn’t have all the bells & whistles of the Chase Sapphire cards. However, I’d argue that you can gain some major value from the Chase Freedom through the 5% cash back on select categories. These categories rotate quarterly, providing you with flexibility on your categories while offering solid cash back options. Here’s what the categories looked like last year:
  • Q1: Gas Stations & Local Commuter Transportation
  • Q2: Grocery & Drug Stores
  • Q3: Restaurants & Movie Theaters
  • Q4: Walmart & Department Stores

As you can see, tons of value to be had. I maxed out three of these categories last year for a net total of 22,500 Chase UR points ($225 in cash back at minimum). There are ways to be creative to maximize your category spend, too-you can buy gift cards for manufactured spending, buy & sell product, offer to take everybody’s check at dinner & get paid in cash, etc. With this mindset, it’s easy to quickly accumulate points & get yourself some cash back at your disposal. Let’s take another look at those categories from last year-here’s how I strategized my category spend:
  • Q1: Gas Stations & Local Commuter Transportation
    • Paid for family gas, bought variable gift cards at gas stations & purchased money orders
  • Q2: Grocery & Drug Stores
    • Bought groceries, manufactured spend by purchasing variable gift cards at Kroger/CVS
  • Q3: Restaurants & Movie Theaters
    • Offered to get paid in Venmo/cash for any meal with friends, bought Kayleigh food
  • Q4: Walmart & Department Stores
    • Bought some Christmas gifts at department stores

This year’s Q1 for Chase was gas stations once again, which you can be sure I will be maxing out though both normal gas expenses + variable gift cards to bridge the gap. Get creative with your spend & you’ll find yourself knocking out these categories in no time. For some people, this card makes all the sense in the world. However, if all of these categories are too confusing or you simply don’t want to keep track of it, I’ve got the card for you-the Chase Freedom Unlimited.

Chase Freedom Unlimited

For those of you that just want a cash-back card without the hassle of thinking about when to use it, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is your answer. This card provides a flat 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make, no matter what the category is. Whether you’re swiping for that late-night slice or making a rent payment, you’ll get the same cash back rate. In addition to that, the Chase Freedom Unlimited offers:
  • Earn $150 after you spend $500 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.
  • Earn 1.5% cash back on all purchases.
  • No annual fee!
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back!

Look familiar? That’s because these cards offer the same benefits, even down to the sign-up bonus. It’s all about whether you prefer category spending vs. a flat fee. For me, I know I can max the categories out & therefore I go for the Chase Freedom.

It’s important to keep in mind that everybody’s spending situation is different! Take note of where you spend the most money & evaluate if category spending is right for you. If not, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a fantastic option that will have you earning points quickly.

Stacking Your Freedom With A Sapphire

One of the best reasons to have one of the Chase Freedom cards is that you can transfer your cash-back balance to one of your Sapphire cards if you are a cardholder. Since the Chase Freedom/Freedom Unlimited only gives you the option to redeem these points for cash-back, this opens Pandora’s box in terms of redemption options. As I laid out in our Sapphire post, you can utilize these points to:
  • Transfer to travel partners like Southwest, United, Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, etc.
  • Book travel directly through the Chase portal for a 25-50% discount on travel by using points
  • Redeem for gift cards
  • Cash Back
This is why having a Chase Freedom/Freedom Unlimited can be SO VALUABLE in the travel hacking community-you can stack these points with your other cards! I try to max my categories out on my Freedom because I never know when I’ll have a surprise travel expense that requires some additional UR points. Both of these cards have saved Kayleigh & I multiple times when we are in a pinch & we haven’t paid a dime in annual fees. Seems like a win-win situation to me!

Recap

Chase’s “everyday” cards (as I define them) can provide tons of value for no additional cost & serve as a great starter card for those of us just getting started. While I typically recommend the Chase Sapphire cards or the Southwest Chase cards to anybody looking for a new credit card, you cannot go wrong with one of these options. These cards also fall under Chase’s 5/24 rule, so if you want to get them, make sure you haven’t received 5 new credit cards in the last 24 months.

With that said, I hope you enjoyed today’s #MileageMonday. I’m going to get prepared for a big night of Bachelor watching (this Arie guy…SHEESH) with the lady & map out what valuable content we can bring you guys next. Have a fantastic week, Smart Money Squad!

Cheers,

Ty



3/2/18

Five Finance Friday - 3/2/18

3/02/2018


Happy Friday Smart Money Squad, and welcome to the month of March! Spring is just around the corner (we hope), and if this month is anything like the last, we'll probably have a combination of snow, fog, rain, sleet, freezing rain, sun, and grey skies all within a week's time. This is Ohio after all. Let's just hope for more of the sunshine and temperatures over 60!

In any case, we’re back with another great line-up of awesome articles from some of our fellow bloggers. Without further adieu, here are our Top 5 articles for this week:

1. Boost Credit Score: A Guide to an Important 3-Digit Number

A debt-free life is certainly one to strive for, but the reality is that many of us will need to rely on debt for some of life's biggest purchases such as a house or an education. All debt is not created equal, however, and some debt can be much more expensive than others if you're not careful. In this article, Full-Time Dollars shows us the importance of a credit score and gives some great tips for boosting your score!

2. How to Pay Off Debt on a Low Income

A 6 or 7 figure salary would be nice, but that's not always realistic in every career field. So does that mean if you don't rake in the big bucks that you can forget paying back your debt? Absolutely not! Whether you make $30k or $300k, paying off your debt is very important (see article above), and can make a real impact on your life. Check out Brian's tips for paying off your debt even if you're not a millionaire.

3. Back Off, I'll Mind My Own Savings Rate

If you've recently just started you first "adult" job, then you're probably familiar with question, "how much of my paycheck should I be saving?". Do a quick Google search and I bet you can find suggestions of anywhere between 6% and 16%. I don't know about you, but that's a big difference and I don't want to be saving too little or too much (is too much even possible??). Check out Winning Personal Finance's article to help you find the right savings rate for YOU!

4. Slow and Steady to Financial Freedom

This article is right up Smart Money Seed's alley! We preach it all the time; getting rich doesn't happen overnight. It takes consistent discipline and commitment to achieve the financial life we dream of. Take a look at Simple Money Man's thoughts on why you should be saving like the tourtise and not the hare.

5. How I Went from Live-in Nanny to Corporate VP

Need a little motivation to get your weekend started? Look no further! Success can take many different shapes and forms, but behind almost any success is one common ingredient: hard work! This article from Money Scrap talks about the importance of hard work among many other ingredients needed to succeed in your career!


That wraps up this edition of the Smart Money Seed #fivefinancefriday, now it's time for the weekend! Thanks for reading, and we'll see you here next week for another lineup of three great articles!