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​​In a Nutshell: I started investing in dividend growth stocks later in life at the age of 40. By age 47 I had created a passive income of $100,000+. That's money that comes in without me lifting a finger, I could walk on a beach, play tennis, sleep... and that money keeps coming in. I share the story of how I got there, starting from high school to present day in the hopes there may be some life lessons for you in there. Wherever you are in your life, it's never too late to start, these lessons may help you get on the road to achieving a passive income for yourself one day. If you invest in yourself, avoid consumer debt, live below your means, regularly save and invest money in a diversified portfolio of dividend growth stocks and keep reinvesting those dividends and keep adding more savings to your investment portfolio, then you can also achieve a healthy passive income stream. It will help you retire well and it may even cushion you from the loss of a job before you retire.

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What will your passive income be?
“I'm sharing this information because I see far too many people getting closer to retirement with real stresses about finances.”

11 life lessons to get you to a $100,000+ passive income​​

If you read just one article on this entire blog... this is the one to read. I'm going to tell you how I went from being a kid in a small fishing village on the east coast of Canada to being retired at 47 in Toronto with a passive income over $100,000. And I believe if you do what I did, you can get there too, hopefully at a much younger age than I did it by, as it took me a while to get around to building a passive income. But wherever you are in your life, it's never too late to start, just apply the lessons that are relevant to you. Results may vary...

1. WORK HARD IN HIGHSCHOOL AND LEARN THE VALUE OF A DOLLAR

I was lucky. I was raised in a loving and supportive family. And my family encouraged... no not encouraged... enforced... my family enforced education. Going to university after highschool was no more a decision for me than is inhaling after you exhale. It was a foregone conclusion. 

And so knowing I would go to university after highschool, my parents had contributed to one of those scholarship investment schemes ( though you'd do much better starting your own self directed RESP). And knowing I needed the grades to get into university, I paid attention in class and made sure I understood what was being taught. I studied as much as I needed to, but also got involved in every single student activity I could. I was a real jock back then, so of course I was on the badminton team. By staying focused in highschool and getting good grades, I was able to win many small scholarship type awards which added up to a decent amount, helping with costs at university.  I added that to the money I had made and saved by working as a bag boy at the local grocery store during high school. 

By that point I knew the value of a dollar. I had seen my parents working hard when I was growing up, and I never asked for much and cherished the few prize possessions we were given. I think I was happier with fresh baked corn meal muffins at home than I was with a new toy anyway. I learned to ignore the Joneses, instead of keeping up with them, from my parents who are not materialistic people. They (and I) care more about the character of a person than the material things they possess or wear.

So work hard in high school, it's your foundation. Win as much free money as you can, and get a job and save, save, save. And remember to have fun, get involved, make good friends (they're the ones who care about you, not what you wear).

2. GET JOBS IN UNIVERSITY AND DON'T GET CONSUMER DEBT, STUDENT LOANS ARE ENOUGH DEBT

My parents had invested in real estate in the same city as the university I went to. It just so happens that my siblings went to the same university. So we all stayed in the place my parents were previously renting out while we went to university. So thanks to my parents, a roof overhead was taken care of. They also provided grocery, utility and gas money, and we had a car to share among the three of us. I know... lucky right? A lot of people aren't as fortunate. So if you don't have those things taken care of, try to lower your cost, find roomates, live in a crappy apartment if you have to, become familiar with simple pasta dishes made at home. Avoid $5 coffee. 

Money for tuition, books, and for spending came from scholarships, working summer jobs and from getting student loans. I was careful with money throughout university. I remember taking a $20 bill out from an ATM and making it last a week. I got a credit card in university but it rarely got used. 

After finishing undergrad, I decided to go to law school. I blame TV shows like 'L.A. Law' and 'Street Legal'. More student loans and working at a men's clothing store got me through another three years of university until I graduated law school. 

So, don't use a credit card, buy with cash, work a job in university (while you're working and earning, you're also not out and spending... it's a win win), spend minimally... you're already creating enough debt from student loans, build friendships, university friendships last a lifetime!

3. LIVE FRUGALLY WHEN YOU START YOUR CAREER AND PAY OFF YOUR STUDENT LOANS QUICKLY

My law career (I use the term 'law career' loosely) was short lived. I articled, getting paid $12,000 for the year... so much for big lawyer salaries, damn you 'LA Law', you lied to me! During that year of only making $12,000, I rented a place where I could see through the floor boards to the basement below for $250/month, I drove a car I had bought for $1,200, I made payments on my student loans, I wore the same three suits that I had bought with a 50% discount from the men's clothing store that I had worked at during law school, and I learned to make really cheap meals at home. 

At this point I did something I wouldn't recommend. Knowing I had a job lined up, and knowing I had been able to live on $12,000 for the year. I went and got a consumer loan from the bank for $5,000. I used it to backpack through India for 2 months with a good friend between my year of articling and before working as a full fledged lawyer. I didn't need all $5,000 and returned from the trip with about $1,500 left over that went back to the bank immediately. Over the year of working as a full fledged terribly paid lawyer, I paid off the rest of the loan. Though I wouldn't recommend taking out loans to travel, I would recommend travelling to India. There's no place like it. I absolutely loved it. At least by getting a loan from the bank instead of paying for my trip by credit card, I got a more manageable interest rate and was able to pay it off within the year.

After getting called to the bar (other bars are more fun), I practiced for another year at the same firm where I was still paid in buttons, but I got a little more than the articling year.

I was realizing law might not be for me, but before giving it up, I used that $1,200 car to haul all my meagre worldly possessions and move me to another province where I practiced law for another year. This time I was paid a few more buttons if I remember correctly, enough to make it a wee bit more than current full-time minimum wage. I lived in a basement apartment at $400/month, I sold the $1,200 car for $500 and upgraded to a used $3,000 car, and I may have bought a new suit or two. I still ate most meals at home, Law & Order was high entertainment, and tennis on public courts rounded out the frugal lifestyle. Despite that, it was a great year making my way in a new province, building new friendships and being away from familiar places for the first time.

I needed furniture for the basement apartment so I found some ads in the paper (there were no online ads from what I recall), and I saw a woman was having a moving sale. She was selling a sofa, a bookshelf and table for $200 each, for a total of $600. I went to see the furniture and told her I only had $200 total, and that if she hadn't sold it by the day she was moving to just call me and I'd come and buy it from her. I picked it all up for $200 a week later. The rest of my furniture came from the slightly damaged section at IKEA.

After another year of law, I realized it definitely wasn't for me. I was 27 and looking down the long road of life... I did not want to spend close to another 40 years doing something I wasn't enjoying. Despite earning a pittance for three years as a character in a John Grisham novel, by living frugally, I had completly paid off my student loans from undergrad and law school, I had paid off the India trip loan and I had no other debt ( I always paid off my balance on my credit card every month) . I had just a few thousand in savings and I had not yet begun to understand the power of compounding or the stock market.

I knew I needed to find a more enjoyable career path, and hopefully a more lucrative one if I was going to have an enjoyable life. Living on buttons wasn't going to cut it. After speaking with a friend, I decided that getting an MBA might open the right opportunities for me. I applied and got deferred acceptance for the next year's class at a good MBA program in Canada. 

With a year to play with before the MBA started, I asked around for advice on what to do. After getting a bunch of ideas from friends, one idea sparked my interest. I decided to quit law and go to Japan to teach English for a year before starting my MBA. I put all my stuff in storage (cheap storage... my parents garage), sold the car for about $2000 and got on a plane headed for Narita Airport not knowing a single word of Japanese nor knowing a single person in Japan. The first announcement on the plane was in Japanese... gulp... "is there a way to get off this plane?!", I thought as we lifted off...

So, once you're out of university and working, keep living frugally. Payoff your student loans as quickly as you can. Try to get deals. Make sure you save money. Also live a fun life, get out there and build friendships, spend when you have to, but  avoid consumer debt.    


4. ENJOY LIFE AND TRAVEL AND CREATE MEMORIES, IT'S THE ONE INVESTMENT THAT IS GUARANTEED TO APPRECIATE OVER TIME

After a long flight, a long couple of train rides and dragging all my luggage through rush hour transit, I made it to my first apartment in Japan. It was shared with a nutbar from Australia. Nutbar not in a good way. Every Aussie I have ever met has been crazy good, but this guy was the exception, he was crazy bad. He woke up early in the morning to caw at the crows. I decided to splurge and get an apartment on my own. I could stretch out and touch one wall with my finger tips and touch the opposite wall with my toes. The lengthwise dimensions were maybe 2.5 times longer. I lived in that shoebox for the year paying about $650 CAD equivalent each month.

I had the time of my life (up to that point) working at the country's largest chain English language school, making as much as I had made in my last year as a young lawyer in Canada.  I made some great friends, both expats and citizens of Japan. One of whom got me hooked on the fantastic winter passtime of snowboarding, which to this day remains my most financially nonsensical activity (by the time you pay for gear, travel, accomodation, lift tickets, eating and drinking... but hey, you gotta enjoy life too, and snowboarding is the closest you can get to feeling like you're flying without leaving the ground, what's the point of being frugal forever and then dying?). I learned to speak some Japanese, enough to be functional in the country. And though I travelled in Japan, climbed Mt Fuji, marvelled at the temples of Nikko, celebrated traditional new year's eve so traditional that I even helped make mochi, soaked in the onsens at Niijima, soaked in the culture, and went out for more than my fair share of karaoke and izakayas, I still managed to end the year with just about $10,000 CAD equivalent in savings. I never really budgeted, but given I knew I was there for only a year, I didn't amass many material possessions... just a few mementos and loads of reels of spent film (no good digital cameras back then). All my spend was on experiences, the rest got saved. Oh and Japan only charged 6% income tax for the first year a foreigner lived there.

So, see the world. Don't blow all your money when you do it, but see the world, through every stage of life, see the world! Don't just be a tourist, immerse yourself in cultures, make friends with people from many cultures, not just your own. Expand your horizons. Any insular thoughts of us and them goes away. It's one small blue marble that we all share and we're all alike. As you travel, don't rack up consumer debt. If you can work abroad and save money, do it.

5. INVEST IN YOURSELF, GO AHEAD TAKE A CHANCE, IT JUST MIGHT PAYOFF

I left Japan and came back to Canada to do my MBA. An MBA at one of the better schools in Canada did not come cheap. Though I hadn't been making more than a few buttons in the last few years, I still had to forego any real income for two years. The MBA was gruelling and I wouldn't be able to work a job and do well in the MBA. Tuition alone per year was around $15,000. And there was room and board, books and eating and going out to be paid for. So giving up two years of earning income and taking on debt to go to school, to the tune of $70,000 total debt after 2 years, was really taking a financial chance. But at that point, what choice did I have... I knew I didn't enjoy the profession of law, and I knew life was meant to be enjoyed. And I knew I didn't want to be stuck earning only buttons for the rest of my life. 

I got my stuff out of storage, moved to the town where the MBA school was, lived frugally by finding a place for $400/month a long bike ride away from campus the first year, then shared a place with roomates the second year where I paid $500/month for my room closer to campus and finished the two year program... well I was almost finished when I met with a company that I convinced to hire me... but the guy hiring needed someone to start right away, I wasn't going to be finished my MBA until May and he needed the role to start in March. I moved my classes around to just two days a week, and for the remainder of my MBA I would fly every week down to Boston where I would spend 5 days working and then fly back to Canada to finish my MBA for 2 days. Every week. 

At the time the USD was worth about 1.5 CAD, so getting a job in the US paying in USD when I had $70,000 CAD in student loans was a dream come true. I was so happy to get an offer paying $80,000 USD that I didn't let the guy making the offer finish making the offer before I said yes. He turned out to be a great boss and a great friend. (But I should have negotiated for more anyway...)

After graduation, I rented a truck and drove my cheap furniture down across the border into Boston. 

And though the money was more than I had ever made being a lawyer in Canada, the more important thing for me was that the work was enjoyable. It was challenging, it was cooperative, it was innovative, it required cleverness... the work felt fun! (That's not to say those things aren't found in the legal profession, but for me something about business, marketing, and strategy... just clicked!) I realized switching from law to business by doing the MBA had turned out to be a great move for me. The chance I had taken investing in myself had paid off! I could enjoy my work and get paid more than when I was a lawyer. A lot of people say if you find something you enjoy doing, you have a greater chance of being successful at it. I believe that's true.

While working that first post MBA job, I got into the habit of setting aside savings at the beginning of every month, right off my first pay check. Some say to take 10%, I took as much as I could while leaving enough to pay bills, rent and a bit of discretionary money. It was almost a form of forced scarcity of funds. It helped me save and start paying down my student loan. In hindsight that year of earning only $12,000 as an articling lawyer had really helped me understand how little you really need. 

After a year at that company I decided to look for a job at a consulting firm. I had focused on consulting in the MBA program and wanted to go that route. A few friends from my MBA program had wound up at a small consulting firm in Boston and a good friend of mine got me an interview at that firm. This time I negotiated (you should always negotiate, there is usually always some room to get more than the original offer). I finally cracked the six figure salary range. 

Despite making good money in Boston, I thought this could end at any time, I could go back to being paid in buttons. I still had most of the $70,000 debt from my MBA hanging over my head and I wanted to get rid of it as soon as I could. I rented a place in the 'cheaper' part of Boston where Boston University students lived, for $1,400 USD a month. I was always thinking in Canadian dollars and to me at that time I was paying $2,100 CAD a month for a clean but very unglamourous apartment. The landlord who met with me looked at my salary information and told me she could show me much nicer apartments. I told her I'd rather be sitting in her position (it felt like she owned half of Boston) when I'm her age, and I was fine renting a cheap apartment. She said she liked the way I thought. I lived in that place the entire four years I was in Boston. 

By the time I moved back to Canada, I had paid off the $70,000 in student loans, I had paid off the brand new VW Jetta that I had bought like a fool, and I had some decent savings that I had invested in mutual funds by taking advantage of company 401k match plans (similar to RRSPs), and I had started learning how to lose money trading in the stock market. (Make sure you learn about investing before you start investing.) Oh, and I finally sold all my old cheap furniture before leaving Boston, if it didn't fit in my Jetta, it wasn't going to belong to me anymore. And now that my debts were paid off, and I was on a good career track, my next place was going to have nicer furniture. 

But I had left a well paying job in Boston, and I had no job lined up... I just knew it was time for me to head back to Canada.

So, do whatever it takes to land a good job and once you find yourself making good money in a job, try to hammer away at your debt, take advantage of savings plans like 401k or RRSP company match, stock purchase plans but still live below your means. Save additional money into an investment account. Learn about investing before you start investing. 

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6. SEEK OUT CHANGE AND LEARNING AND ILL-DEFINED OPPORTUNITIES

My oldest friend gave me a room to stay in as I looked for work in Toronto. Fortunately a role opened up with a large Canadian telecom that I had recently consulted to. The role was ill-defined, the guy hiring basically said, "I need you to make us more innovative, can you do that?". My answer boiled down to 'yes', and I was offered the job.


It was a great job. Now that my debts were paid, I was willing to take lower pay than a traditional consulting job in order to try something different. Running an innovation team for one of Canada's largest companies fit the bill. There was a great group of people to work with and I'm still friends with them to this day. There was a small group of people that liked talking stock. Every now and then we'd discuss stocks and what we were buying or selling and our reasons, which helped improve my portfolio's performance. All the while I was taking advantage of the work RRSP match program and employee stock purchase programs to increase my savings as much as I could. 

I graduated to a nice apartment for $1,200 and nicer furniture, nothing extravagant but no longer was I looking for damaged specials at IKEA. At age 34 I got my first big screen TV. I bought nice furniture that would last a long time. I bought it in stages with cash instead of credit, I slept on an air mattress until I had the cash saved for a nice bed. I still have most of my furniture some 14 years later. (It might be time to buy some new furniture!) And with my savings on track, all debt taken care of, I started spending a little more freely. But I was still taking money right off my pay and putting it into investments with each pay cheque.

So, once your consumer debt and student loans are all paid off, allow yourself to be less frugal, enjoy the niceties a little more, while making sure you're still doing a good job of saving enough for retirement and taking advantage of any free money programs like 401k/RRSP match and employee stock purchase programs.

7. WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, OPEN THE DOOR AND OFFER IT A DRINK

After two years at the Canadian telecom company, I was recruited by a large American technology company with a position based in Canada. For some reason, American companies pay much more than Canadian companies even for positions in Canada. So if you're looking for work, go on Glassdoor.com and compare salaries from different employers to help you decide who you want to work for and to help in trying to figure out how much you're worth. I got a good offer but I still negotiated for more. They came back saying I could have a $10,000 sign on bonus or they could start my base salary $10,000 higher than the original offer. I figured this was a place I'd want to stay a long time, so I asked for the base salary to be raised $10,000. I worked for that company for 10 years, which means getting that increase to my base instead of as a one time sign on bonus, resulted in an additonal $100,000 over the 10 years.

So, always negotiate for more and look at the long term. Understand what you're worth to an employer.

8. WHEN YOU START TO EARN MORE, KEEP LIVING THE LIFESTYLE YOU WERE BEFORE AND SAVE AND INVEST MORE

Those ten years were very important to my financial health. I made a good salary, I invested in employee stock purchase plans, I took advantage of RRSP match programs and I saved a significant portion of my take home pay by shifting money into an investing account as soon as I got paid and by continuing to live a lifestyle that I had set when I worked for the lower paying job at the Canadian telecom company. Every time I got a bonus, I'd save most of it, but I'd take a chunk of it and go and see another part of the world and spend a little more on the people I love.

In the first year or so I decided to try my hand at doing a renovation and found a dilapidated old loft to buy in Toronto. I hired some guys for the work I didn't feel I could do well and I did a bunch of work myself. I wound up with a really nice looking loft. I lived there for a while and then when the real estate market was looking uncertain, I decided to cash in and found myself sitting on a very nice sum of money. 

I'm very thankful for the career I had at that company. I made many great friends there. And one particular friend from that company helped me immensely in my shift to focusing on dividend investing. He had built himself a passive income stream with dividends and we would talk about it everytime we met up. 

Between his influence and a conversation with my father about how I had no pension, I had decided to fundamentally change my investment approach. Before, the majority of my portfolio was focused on growth stocks which were incredibly volatile and I lived through the panic of 2008/2009 listening to the talking heads on CNBC with nutbars yelling "BuyBuyBuy!!". Fortunately, back then I didn't have as much money invested in the market as I have now. I quickly shifted to focusing on dividend growth stocks and doing my own deep dive analysis. That was just before I turned 40. That's pretty late in life. I hope some of you reading this are in your 20s... if you can start building a dividend growth portfolio now, you'll be miles ahead of where I am by the time you're in your late 40s.

I bought and read The Intelligent Investor from cover to cover to try to improve my investing skills. I started diving deeply into quarterly reports and listening to quarterly calls from companies I was interested in investing in. I started tracking which companies had sustainable pay out ratios and which companies grew their dividends regularly. I started to slowly build positions in dividend growth stocks like telecoms, utilities, consumer staples, consumer discretionary, technology stocks, REITs, financials, and more. 

So, get a good understanding of what dividend growth investing is as soon as you can. The earlier you learn about it the better off you'll be when you're older. You can learn a fair bit about it here.

9. DON'T TOUCH YOUR DIVIDENDS, REINVEST THEM, ADD MORE TO THEM AND LET IT ALL SNOWBALL

By the time I was 40, a couple of years into that 10 year job, and with the benefit of the proceeds of selling my loft and all my other savings in life, I had a dividend portfolio generating $10,000 in passive dividend income. I never spent those dividends, I kept reinvesting them into more dividend growth stocks, then the underlying dividends would be increased by the companies as well, and as I saved more money from my salary as raises and bonuses occurred and by living below my means, I would put even more savings into my dividend portfolio.

Though I was living below my means I was making some upgrades, I had enough of living in apartments and I rented a small house in Toronto for $2,500 a month. It cost me less per month than buying a house in the same neighbourhood. So for me it made sense to rent. 

My friend who told me about dividend investing, had told me that if I kept reinvesting and kept adding to my portfolio by saving and kept investing in companies that grow their dividends, that my dividend income would snowball quickly. He was absolutely right. By age 41 I had $15,000 in passive dividend income, by 42 it grew to $19,000, at 43 I hit $30,000 in passive dividend income. It kept jumping from there, by 44 I hit $41,000, at age 45 I was approaching $55,000 in passive dividend income. By reinvesting and adding more savings and with dividend growth from the underlying companies, at 46 I hit $74,000. When I turned 47 I had $97,000 in dividend income and before I turned 48 I had hit $100,000+ in passive dividend income.  

With that security of passive income, I decided to upgrade my car. I said goodbye to my 16 year old VW Jetta, (buying it new for too much made me want to squeeze every penny of value out of it...but it was time) I donated it to the  Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind , and I bought a 5 year old used Audi in great shape for just $18,800. Even though I was doing well, financially, I still couldn't bring myself to waste money on things. You never know when a well paying job might disappear, better to live frugally but well. Buying a used car is a great way to save on the often necessary expense of having a car. 

Then the job came to an end and fortunately at that point, I had enough passive dividend income that it didn't really matter. The passive income was enough to cover my rent, utilities, cell phone, cable/internet, groceries, car expenses, and plenty of discretionary spend to enjoy life and travel. Though I had originally been building the passive dividend income stream for retirement purposes, it wound up helping me immensely in a time of unemployment.

(As a side note, any time a job comes to an end, make sure you have a solid understanding of employment law and what your rights and entitlements are. If you don't know what you're entitled to, speak with a qualified employment lawyer.)

And so with the security of the passive dividend income, I decided to take a year off. I created this blog. I travelled some more. I spent more time visiting family. I played more tennis. I went snowboarding more.  I got much healthier, managing to lose a significant amount of weight.  And now thanks to the passive income I can choose to be retired or I can take my time and look for another job that I will truly enjoy. I have no financial pressure now as the passive dividend income more than pays for my fixed and discretionary expenses and I am free to do as I please. Also since I'm invested in dividend growth stocks, my passive income will continue to grow each year. And since I'm not spending all of it, the left over gets reinvested each year as well, helping ensure I am all set for a secure retirement.

I find I am missing the intellectual challenge and comraderie of my career and so now I'm opening the door to a new opportunity to be challenged in a career setting once again. I've enjoyed the year off, but it's time to take on a new challenge.

So, let your dividends grow, don't touch them, reinvest them, add more savings to them and one day it will either give you a secure retirement or it will cushion the loss of a job. Then when you're free to do as you please, do as you please.

10. NON-DIVIDEND INVESTING IS STILL SOMETHING YOU CAN ENJOY, BUT KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON DIVIDENDS

I know dividend growth investing is the key to my financial security. The majority of my portfolio is invested in dividend growth. I still enjoy looking for growth stocks with no dividend, like Shake Shack, lithium stocks, faster growing growth stocks, but I put a smaller amount of money into those categories... the vast majority of my money, 80%+ is in dividend growth stocks.

No single stock is more than 5% of my portfolio. And I'm diversified by geography with 45% of my portfolio in Canada, 30% in USA, and 25% in international stocks. I'm also diversified by industry with 23% in financials, 17% in REITs, 16% in infrastructure, 14% in consumer discretionary, 8% in healthcare, 7% in technology, 5% in utilities and the remaining 10% spread across various categories.

So, dable in other investments, but try to focus your portfolio on dividend/distribution stocks. 

11. TAKE WHAT LEARNINGS YOU CAN FROM MY STORY, APPLY IT TO YOUR OWN LIFE

I'm sharing this information because I see far too many people getting closer to retirement with real stresses about finances. I hate seeing it. I believe if people only knew of the possibility to have financial freedom and how to acheive it, we could alleviate a lot of stress from a lot of people's lives. I felt it necessary to share the fact that I've acheived $100,000+ in passive dividend income. I'm not doing it to brag or to slap myself on the back, I'd rather keep the amount private really. I'm sharing the information because I feel a lot of people think financial independence and retire early (FIRE) types live an unsustainably austere lifestyle on a minimal amount of passive income. My passive dividend income alone puts me right around the top 10% income earners aged 48 in Canada according to the 2016 Census. That's money earned while walking on a beach, while sleeping, while playing tennis, while eating lunch! I believe if I share the information on how much passive income you can create, more people may wake up to the possibility that they can create it for themselves too and live the lifestyle they want to.

And maybe in doing so, I can help in some small part to get a few people to avoid a retirement crisis. I don't think government will be able to save anyone, they are spending with so much abandon that taxes will rise and old age security payments will likely disappear. So you need to prepare for your own financial security.

I want people to know that it's possible to live a good lifestyle (I travel, I drive a used Audi, I have nice furniture, I live in a nice place in a nice part of Toronto, I go out to restaurants and bars, and I'm generous to the people I love) and to still live below your means by cutting spending in other areas. By doing so you can save and invest in a dividend growth portfolio and build a passive dividend income stream that one day will either help you retire well or help you in the event of a job loss. 

Clearly, you don't have to follow my path. This is the path I took and through a combination of luck and hard work I managed to create financial independence and security, and if I choose... early retirement. This is just one person's path, there are many paths that can be taken to financial security. (I have a cousin who has focused on preconstruction condo investing and at a young age is getting very close to financial security as well!) My path was long and meandering, I started in one career, made a change and wound up in another. I didn't even get to dividend investing until much later in life. I hope you get to it much earlier than I did. If you do, you'll be much further ahead.

You didn't need all the information I put in here, but I put it in here in the hopes that knowing the path I took might make it a bit more relateable to you. And by making it more relateable I hope you realize it's achievable for you too. Maybe it will help you rexamine some financial decisions you are making right now. Just know that it's possible. With some luck and hard work, you can do it too.

Remember, I'm not a financial advisor, I have no financial credentials, I'm also no longer a practicing lawyer, I'm just a guy with a blog, so if you need professional financial advice, speak with a professional. 

In an upcoming blog, I'll dive more deeply into the details of how I built the dividend portfolio, complete with a starter Excel spreadsheet, key dividend growth stocks I've held, and more.

​So, be a SmarterSquirrel... Save. Invest. Enjoy.


Remember to sign up for the SmarterSquirrel Monthly Newsletter and to follow me on Twitter so you get updates when I publish a new blog or when I add stocks to the SmarterSquirrel Mock Portfolio. 

​​​​​​Lessons Learned:
  • Invest in yourself, take a risk, get the credentials you need to do something you enjoy that will pay you enough to save enough to one day be secure in retirement
  • If you find yourself looking down a path that isn't right for you, make a change
  • Understand what you're worth and negotiate for the best offer you can possibly get
  • If a job ends, understand what you're entitled to by speaking with an employment lawyer
  • Avoid consumer debt by living below your means
  • Cars are a waste of money, waste as little money on a car as you can
  • When your salary increases, keep living like you were on the lower salary and save the difference
  • Regularly take money right away from your pay and put it to paying off debt and then to savings/investing
  • Read The Intelligent Investor
  • Ignore talking heads on CNBC or BNN
  • Research and analyze dividend growth stocks
  • Invest in dividend growth stocks, and reinvest the dividends
  • As long as you're working, never spend the dividend income you get, reinvest it
  • Make sure your portfolio is diversified by industry and geography and that no one stock is more than 5% of your portfolio
  • Make sure you aren't being so austere that you don't enjoy life, enjoy and celebrate life at every stage of life, make friends at every stage
  • See the world as often as you can, but don't be a tourist, immerse yourself in cultures, engage with locals
  • Make sure you aren't spending so much on enjoying life that you wind up with no security in retirement, find the balance
  • If you can't be generous with your money because you don't have much yet, be generous with your time, it's more valuable anyway
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