Low Cost-of-Living Florida, And Why The Best Places To Live Are Hidden In Plain Sight

Ah, Florida, the land of retirees, cocaine, and in the spring, drunk college students. All over the country, millions of Americans believe that only the old and the mentally ill call Florida home. And to a certain extent, they’re right. But Florida isn’t that bad of a place to live. In fact, it’s a great place to live, if you know where to look!

From sleepy towns on the Gulf Coast such as Pensacola, to large urban cities like Jacksonville, and the tropical Manhattan of downtown Miami, there’s a place for everyone in Florida! And to top it all off, there’s NO STATE INCOME TAX in Florida!

While I do love going down to Miami to check out the beautiful beaches, the expensive cars, and eat the mind-bogglingly delicious Cuban food, the cost of living is ridiculously high, and according to the “experts” at WalletHub, it’s one of the worst places to raise children in America.

However, there is one city that’s often overlooked…

Jacksonville, Florida.

“Wait, what?”

Yes. Jacksonville, Florida.

With a median home price of $132,000, and a cost of living in line with the national average, Jacksonville offers its residents an urban setting at a fraction of the cost of a place like New York City or San Francisco. And while Duval County, the largest school district in the country, has a bad reputation, the combination of hidden gems in the public school system and the numerous private schools gives your children a variety of educational options.

One drawback of living in Jacksonville is that you have to own a car, since it’s the largest city by geographic size in the continental US. However, you don’t have to deal with the intense traffic other major cities have, and you can make a trip from the west side of town to the beaches in 45 minutes. And if you live downtown, there’s a thriving nightlife and great restaurants to enjoy on foot.

I could tell you a lot more about Jacksonville and other cities and towns in Florida, but the main point of this article is to show you that the top 5 cities in the US aren’t the end-all, be-all of living an interesting life. If you’re willing to take the time to actually visit some out of the way places, you may find your own perfect slice of American life.



The Snowball Effect, Saving $3,000 by Senior Year, and Setting Long Term Goals

Now that I have finally received my check for my last shift at work, my savings account balance sits at approximately $1,005. Success! But where do I go from here? My next goal, which I set in place at the beginning of my journey along with the $1,000 goal, is to save $3,000 by the end of Senior year. And even if you have not reached the $1,000 mark yourself, you should still plan ahead and set your own $3,000 goal.

Long term goals are just as important, if not more important, than goals you can reach in the near future. Your short term goals (Anything that takes one month to a year) should build a foundation for your long term goals (one year to five years) which should build a foundation for your major life goals (i.e. Buying a home, paying for your kid’s college, or buying a Lamborghini if you’re like me). There is no point to achieving a minor goal unless it eventually leads to greater things.

While this mindset can be applied to many challenges in life, it is especially important when trying to be financially successful. All fortunes are made $1 at a time. But eventually those dollars add up! Once you begin your journey to financial success, you must have an end goal in mind, even if that goal changes overtime. You need to have consistent goals so that each time you reach a milestone, you feel a sense of accomplishment. Otherwise, you will be embarking on a journey without a destination.

Here’s a rough list of my financial goals:

  1. Save $1,000 by the end of Junior year (Done, ahead of schedule!)
  2. Save $3,000 by the end of Senior year
  3. Save $100,000 by age 25
  4. Save $250,000 AND put a down payment on a home by age 30
  5. Save $1,000,000 by age 40
  6. Save $5,000,000 by age 65*

*(Not adjusted for inflation, so that goal will probably end up being closer to 10 mil!)

“But Andrew, $100,000 is SO MUCH MONEY! $1,000 was reasonable, but I can’t do that another 99 times!”

Well, if you follow the 4% Rule for retirement (which won’t work for most people, anyways), you will have a grand total of $40 per year to live off of for the last 30 years of your life, if you decide to not save anymore money. And in America, no matter how frugal you are, it’s impossible to survive on 11 cents a day!

One of the great things about saving money is that it will grow exponentially over time if you play your cards right. By continuing to lower your expenses, and progress in your career, the flow of money into your savings account will increase dramatically. Let’s say Bob made $3,000 a month Post-Tax last year, and saved $100 a month to achieve his goal of $1,000 in savings. This year, Bob continues to cut back, and lowers his expenses to $2,500 a month. He also gets a raise at work, adding $400 a month to his Post-Tax Income. By the end of this year, Bob will add another $10,800 to his savings, or over 10x what he saved last year. By cutting costs and expanding cash flow, you can increase the amount of money you put into your savings every year.

Once you have enough saved, you can begin investing and experience the “Snowball Effect” of growing money. Through investing, you can make money, and have that money make money, with almost no work! Let’s say Bob wanted to invest in the stock market and put his entire $1,000 in savings into Walmart Stocks (not recommended!). Let’s say the stock produces a 5% return every year. At the end of his first year of investing, Bob will have $1,050 in Walmart Stocks. Now, Bob decides to buy another $10,800 worth of Walmart Stocks (Again, not recommended!!!). By the end of his second year of investing, Bob will have $12,442 dollars in savings , and a profit of $592 for the year! So, if you save more money, and invest more money, you will eventually be raking in massive amounts of cash by letting your money work for you!

I know that was a lot to digest, and a lot of what I discussed here cannot be fully understood from just a blog post. But by committing to learn about investing and saving your money wisely, you can set seemingly impossible goals, and reach them through hard work and perseverance.


The $1,000 Plan: A Post for Anyone Ages 8-80

Do you think that Warren Buffett made 66.7 billion dollars overnight? Or Bill Gates just checked his bank account one day and it contained 79.2 billion dollars? Or that Mark Zuckerberg built a website in college and made 35.7 billion dollars? (OK, maybe he did, but your name isn’t Mark Zuckerberg, is it?)

Anyone who is rich of their own accord, whether they are a small business owner or a titan of industry, built their wealth over a period of years, or even decades. You don’t go from $0 in your bank account to $1,000,000 in one fell swoop, it happens in increments. And if you want to jump around naked, celebrating your newfound wealth like Mark Cuban did, you have to take that first step towards greatness.

I once read somewhere that if you have $10 in your pocket and no debt, you have a higher net worth than 25% of Americans. While jumping from last place to average among those below average may seem like an accomplishment, a homeless man can achieve the same by picking up a few stray greenbacks off the street. Plus, you’re ambitious enough that you want to get as close to average as you can, right? Right?

Whether you are a starry-eyed teen with dreams of one day owning a Lamborghini and a mansion, or an adult trying to solve the complex puzzle of the modern financial system, I think that $1,000 is a reasonable savings goal. My own goal is to save $1,000 by May,and I’m already 98% of the way there, with another paycheck on it’s way to cover that last 2% with change. And if a kid who will drink Starbucks frappuccinos as long as the grass is green and the sky is blue can do it, you can, too!

Unfortunately, a lot of you may have no money in your paycheck at the end of the month, or you have a large amount of debt, whether it be student, credit, or a large mortgage. But if you focus hard enough, you can slowly but surely make your way towards that first goal. Instead of going out to the club with your friends, watch a movie at home and put the $50 difference into your savings. Set a budget for eating out, and if you blow it in the first 2 weeks of the month, have fun eating ramen noodles for dinner every night!

One of the hard facts of life is that there is no reward without sacrifice. Even if you can only manage to put away $3 a day, you will have $1,095 in your bank account after 365 days; you’ll reach your goal and have enough left for a night out on the town!

I don’t promise to make you rich overnight, in a year, or even 10 years, depending on where you are starting from. But I do promise that if you commit to taking that first $1,000 step, and slowly but surely add to that initial stash of cash, you will wake up one day and realize that you have created a financially secure future for yourself and your family.


Why You Should Get Good Grades, Even Though 2 Chainz Didn’t

I actually just lied to you in that title. Tauheed Epps, aka “2 Chainz”, aka “Tity Boi”, was the salutatorian of his high school class and went on to get a 4.0 GPA from Alabama State University. So I guess all the baby boomers who complain about the stupidity of modern music were valedictorians!

OK, are all of the adults gone? Good! This article is geared towards young people anyway. And I’m sure that like me, you want to be the next Kanye West or Jay-Z. Or am I the only one who wants to be a famous rapper?

Whether you want to become a performer and have millions of fans, or go to medical school so that you can perform life-saving procedures on others, you want to try to get the best grades you can. Even though many people end up being successful without a traditional education or a top GPA, getting good grades gives you more opportunities to make money and life a happy life, compared to those who are less educated.

The main goal of an education is to gain knowledge. And with knowledge comes wisdom, and with wisdom comes money. A basic education provides you with a strong base to develop business ideas. While school may not be fun, it trains you to analyse and synthesize information, which will be extremely helpful in your future endeavours.

Furthermore, to be successful in business, you must constantly teach yourself about investing, industry, and other fields of practical and intellectual value. People become rich because they know things that most people don’t. If you devote a significant amount of time to teaching yourself, and understanding concepts that most people can’t grasp, you will eventually have a breakthrough idea for an innovation or business.

Some people become wealthy without an education. A lot more become wealthy with an education. If you want to be not only financially successful, but also live an intellectually fulfilling life, stay in school and try your best, no matter how boring it is!



Get a Job! Not just any Job, though

Exams may be over, but that doesn’t mean I can take a break! There’s nothing like getting up early on a Sunday to clean Tennis courts in 20-degree Fahrenheit weather. Luckily, I get to spend part two of my Sunday shift sitting at a nice, cozy desk writing this article.

And you know what makes this gig even sweeter? I’m getting paid to sit at this desk and do nothing for 75% of the time! Sure, I need to help customers for a few minutes whenever they come into the shop, but outside of that, I’m making money while growing this blog. It’s very time efficient, and if you can find a job where you get paid to sit around, I would highly recommend it.

However, a job like mine is hard to come by. That’s why I am going to tell you about my second job! Outside of working on Sundays, I also teach Tennis to young players at a rate of $20 an hour, or about 2.5x the minimum wage here in Florida. While it’s not possible to book a full 40-hour workweek, I can control my schedule and work when I want to, and make a heck of a lot more than most kids my age.

“But Andrew, I have no idea how to play Tennis, or any sport for that matter! Will I be poor for eternity, or at least until I get a college degree?”.

Well, you don’t necessarily need to teach a sport if you want to have a great first job. Do you have a subject in school that you are good at, or at least have a B in? You should consider tutoring middle or elementary school students in that subject! With professional tutors ranging from $60 an hour to several hundred dollars an hour in places like NYC and San Francisco, $20 an hour (or even more in some cases) will seem like a steal to most parents!

Other ideal jobs include anything that involves sitting at a desk, whether as a clerk or a library attendant, that allow you to work on other projects, such as your homework, when you are not helping a customer or maintaining the facility. You want to find a job that puts you at a desk or reception area just so your employer has someone there, not involving any lengthy periods of work.

Many teens can easily get a job working at a local store or restaurant stocking shelves or cleaning dishes, and while I do believe there is value in menial labor, it’s not very efficient to take such a time consuming job when you already have 40-50 hours of school work! I implore you to seek out more time efficient ways to make money, and leave a comment if you have any other ideas on how to make money on a tight schedule.


Setting Financial Goals as a Teenager

One of the most difficult things to tell a teenager is to save their money. One of the most difficult things to tell myself is to save my money! Why put my checks in the bank when Starbucks and Chick-Fil-A are only 5 minutes from my house? However, as painful as it may seem, one of the best times to save during your life is when you are a teenager.

Reasons why you need to save your money NOW!!!

  1. You have parents or a parent that will feed, clothe, and shelter you until you are 18, and even afterwards if you’re lucky or just too lazy to leave the house. All of your money can go towards savings if you so desire
  2. There is no downside to any experiments in investing. You can buy stocks and learn what works and what doesn’t work without dealing with the consequence of not having enough money to cover bills/rent
  3. If you want to be a little more conservative, you can invest in Bonds and CDs and get an extra cash infusion a few years down the road
  4. You can minimize your college debt, or have a little extra spending money if you get a scholarship or have generous parents
  5. You start learning good money habits that can only be helpful down the road

As you can see, there are many good reasons to start saving money from a young age. In my opinion, #5 is the most important reason. If you start with $1,000 in savings, that can grow to $10,000 in your first few years out of college, $100,000 within the decade, and even $1,000,000 by your 40s… I don’t know about you, but I sure wouldn’t mind being a millionaire!

For many teenagers, getting a first job is a rite of passage, and holding that first paycheck in your hands can be exciting and even overwhelming. But saving even a small portion of that check can prepare you for the future and help you save for all big-ticket items your teen heart desires, such as this $379.95 pair of Beats Studio Headphones. So start saving now, and enjoy the benefits in both the near future and the far future!


Welcome to 17tofinanciallyfree!

The first thing I must admit is that I am starting this website in the middle of my high school midterms as a way to distract myself. Procrastination at it’s finest.

However, I am not just some kid who has no idea what he is doing, trying to tell strangers online how to manage their money. I have extensively read the work of many financial experts, from the 1996 hit “The Millionaire Next Door” by Thomas J. Stanley to the modern blogs “Mr. Money Mustache” and “Financial Samurai”. My goal is to draw the core lessons from these various sources and explain their practical applications to people just starting out on their journey to financial freedom.

I will also be posting lessons from my personal life and my own journey to financial freedom. While there is no clear path for me at this point, considering that I am still in high school, there are still choices that people my age and older can make to start preparing for not only a secure retirement but also big ticket purchases such as a vacation or a down payment on a home (or my friend’s old Chevy that I so desire!).

As time goes on, I will continue to get more specific about what I will be posting, and explain my own financial goals, tips, and tricks in detail. Until then, happy saving!