How to get things done and prove the naysayers wrong


This is for those of you who seem to encounter a lot of obstacles, challenges and naysayers in your life on the way to your goals.

There is no shortage of methods, systems and tutorials that claim to teach you how to get things done.  Special notebooks, goal-setting software, prioritized task lists, motivational videos, personal- power-unleashing seminars and a variety of specialized gadgets exist to help you laser-focus on proper goal-setting and productivity.

And while different people prefer different systems – all of those mentioned above work fine.  It is easy to choose the one you like and be on your way to changing your life for the better.

Yet, despite the variety of available tools and techniques, the results most people achieve are mediocre, at best.  Even when they seem to try hard, life just gets in the way.

So, how do you become an exceptional performer?  How do you crush it in life, despite all the distractions, excuses, obstacles and naysayers?  If you need advice on how to get things done – here are a few simple but effective rules.

Read more

HELOC: get better investment returns and accelerated portfolio growth

It has been a while since we discussed money matters – so today we are going to quickly talk about home equity loans (HELOC) and how you can use them to maximize your returns.

The readers of The Ultimate Alpha Project know that, alongside with maintaining exemplary health, physical strength and mental capacity, financial success is a major part of being an Alpha and kicking butt in all areas of life.  You also know that I consider real estate one of the very few investment vehicles that are worth your while.  Let’s see how HELOC loans fit into the bigger real estate investment picture.

Life before HELOC

Because banks do not lend 100% of the value in question, a typical buyer ready to purchase an investment property needs to come up with at least some down payment – typically around about 20% or so.  The actual amount of such down payment depends on where you live and what types of properties you specialize in.  Let’s say that a “starter home” in a densely populated and otherwise promising suburban area that satisfies other investment criteria, would cost you $300,000.  This might mean at least $60,000 as a down payment.  Add legal, land transfer tax and other closing costs – and you are potentially looking at more than $65,000.

What do most people do? They save up first for that down payment.  But what if you run out of personal funds or simply want to accelerate the process?  Naturally, your only other avenue is borrowing to invest (using other people’s money to generate profits for you).  We have briefly touched upon the benefits of a properly managed debt in one of the previous articles – borrowing to invest in a profitable project is always a better option because it generates an infinite return on investment (ROI), because there really is NO initial investment out of your pocket, only the return.  Essentially, you are creating money from nothing.

Read more

Planning my retirement: future value of present decisions


I am planning my retirement future.  Not in a traditional sense, such as preparing for austerity, downsizing my living space, restricting spending and depending on others, including the Government (we have seen in the article on tax-deferred plans that this could be a bad idea).  By contrast, my plans have some grandeur, financial freedom, and ever-increasing quality of life.

I do not plan to be forced to significantly reduce my spending after retiring at the risk of having to eat cat food otherwise.  I do not anticipate being involved in the typical cliché retirement pastimes, like playing bingo, doing gardening and living off some modest investments with no aspirations and occasional trip to a tropical location in the cheap part of the Caribbean (at most).

Unfortunately, this typical post-retirement scenario is what most people will face.  A lot of soon-to-be retirees will have to face this harsh reality – not the perfect lives filled with smiles, walks along the beach in Bali while holding hands, luxury cars and multiple cottages, as painted by investment companies who want your money – but the actual struggle to live from pension cheque to pension cheque and living in hopes that the money they have managed to accumulate in the past doesn’t run out too soon.

Read more

Does investing in tax-sheltered retirement accounts make sense?

Ahh, sweet retirement…  Many of us dream of that blessed day when we can finally escape the rat race and enjoy the freedom to travel, enjoy time with family and live life to the fullest, while collecting benefits from pension plans that we so diligently worked to regularly contribute – sometimes for 45 years or more.

But today I am going to give you a piece of some very uncommon advice – consider eliminating conventional tax-haven retirement savings accounts (RRSPs, IRAs, 401(k), etc) altogether.  Wait, what?!  But aren’t these considered the holy grail of saving for retirement and the best way to make sure you don’t end up eating cat food when you retire?  I have to admit – this is not for the faint at heart.  It requires careful analysis of your personal situation and a bit of bravery.  But remember, the goal of an Ultimate Alpha is to maximize returns.

My personal opinion is that with these retirement accounts you might be leaving a lot of money on the table (that is, if you don’t lose money in them).  This article will discuss the reasons why I am not a big fan of locking your money in a tax-deferred retirement savings plan.

Read more

Setting financial goals

New Year’s Resolutions

We all know that around these days in early January, a lot of people start working on implementing their New Year’s resolutions – apparently, there is something special about “starting clean” on January 1.  To be honest – I could never understand why people don’t make important decisions immediately instead of waiting – sometimes for several months!.  I’m sure you’ve heard many people say about some bad habit “OK, starting from the New Year… [I will stop doing that]” – even if the New Year was months away!

The sad part is that most of the goals enthusiastically set at the end of the previous year will not be reached.  The energy will fizz out in a couple of months and most people will be back to where they started – and keep making promises to themselves to re-start again, starting the following January.  Hey, I get it – most people have very busy lives.  But “busy” doesn’t necessarily mean “productive” – very few are aiming for meaningful results and end up being trapped in an endless rat race.

Making New Year’s resolutions appears to be a big thing in North America specifically.  Interestingly enough, certain cultures that celebrate New Year do not have resolutions – they have New Year wishes (as I, being a representative of one of such cultures, vividly recall from my childhood memories).  You’d be surprised, but some are actually surrounded by funny superstitions of unknown origins, such as – to make sure your wish comes true, you have to start opening and pouring Champagne only when the final countdown to midnight begins, then quickly make a wish and drink it before the countdown ends – and some similar nonsense.  The other day I came across an article that teaches you, step by step, how to make a New Year wish come true).

Silly, I know.  I want to think that in our day and age, nobody really believes that there is some special New Year’s Eve magic that would make your wishes come true, but somehow these traditions continue.  Here is the interesting thing, though – when it comes to most people, there really isn’t much of a difference between these two approaches, because most resolutions never graduate past being wishes and dreams.

Take money, for example.  Read more