LEARN HOW TO INVEST

GUIDE FOR BEGINNERS: Module 1

Michael Santos Presents

Learning How to Invest Worksheet

If you’re learning how to invest, start by creating your worksheet! Your worksheet will help you start laying the foundation for your success.

How to Build Your Investment Strategy Worksheet

This article helps those who want to learn how to invest. Start building your plans by:

  1. Identifying your point-A: Where are you now?
  2. Identifying Your Point-B: Where will you be in five years?
  3. Build your Worksheet: Creating your plan to grow from Point-A to Point-B.

As human beings, we learn from our experiences and from the experiences of others. All of us can reflect to five or ten years ago and assess decisions we made.

Decisions bring outcomes.

  • Are we happy with the outcomes of our decisions?
  • What decisions could we have made to get better outcomes?
  • What decisions can we make today to work toward the outcomes we want?

When we invest time to reflect and think critically, we see the influences of past decisions with more clarity.

Reflect on your past to build your future. By introspecting, we learn a lot.

Creating Your Path to Succeed

I’ll show you how I began to introspect at the start of an on-going self-improvement journey.

My journey began inside prison cells, where I spent multiple decades. I made bad decisions during my teenage years. By the time I turned 20 I started selling cocaine. As a result of my crimes, I served multiple decades in the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

To rebuild, I had to reconcile with society and I had to prepare for success.

I started with an inventory of where I stood at that particular stage, when I was facing life in prison. I didn’t like the predicament I was in, but I accepted that I had the power to change. I projected into the future, thinking about the life I wanted to lead when I got out of prison—even though I didn’t know how long I would have to wait.

Decisions from five and ten years previously put me on the pathway to prison. Decisions I made then—while inside of that prison cell—would influence who and what I would become five and ten years in the future.

Where are you on life's journey?

When you assess your finances, your career, or your business, are you where you want to be? If so, then celebrate your success. The decisions you made five and ten years ago put you on that path. And the decisions you make today will determine where you are in the next five and ten years.

Introspections help us become more self-aware. Self-awareness strengthens us to make better decisions and better preparations for our future.

Regardless of what decisions we’ve made in the past, or where we are at any given stage, we can start to architect a plan. That plan should be intentional, taking us from where we are to where we want to go.

  • How intentional are you in your pursuit of the career you want?
  • How intentional are you in the development of your business?
  • How intentional are you in your pursuit of financial success?

When we don’t reflect on our decisions, we make excuses for challenges we’re experiencing. We blame external forces for our troubles.

On the other hand, when we’re intentional, we restore confidence. We carve our way through struggles and challenges to reach the success we set out to achieve.

While locked in prison, I found that it’s far better to live intentionally.

Figure out where you are. If you don’t like it, make a change.

  • Project yourself into the success you want to become.
  • Create a plan that will take you there.
  • Put priorities in place.
  • Make decisions that show your commitment to succeed.

That simple roadmap led me through 9,500 days as a prisoner. It launched me on a pathway to build my career, develop my business, and create an investment portfolio worth millions of dollars.

USE THIS STRATEGY TO succeed

Regardless of what stage in life you’re in, use this same strategy to begin building your pathway to success. By learning how to invest, and using worksheets to assess your progress, you’ll grow in measurable, methodical ways.

If you want to become more successful in your career, in your business, or as an investor, start your personal inventory. Determine where you are. Then determine where you want to go.

Chart your course and then act in accordance with your plan.

 

Invest in Yourself First

Investing in yourself requires time and commitment. As an example, I’ll share the strategy that worked for me, recreating worksheets that I used at different stages of the journey.

If it makes sense to you, use the worksheets that I provide below as examples. They will help you take inventory of your resources and they will help you lay out a five-year plan.

 

Inventory Resources: Point-A

While I lay in my jail cell, back in 1987, I thought about my life at that particular stage. What did I have?

Education:

  • I graduated high school, but I’d been a mediocre student that squandered opportunities to learn.

Finances:

  • I didn’t have any financial resources and my conviction meant that I would spend decades in prison. I didn’t have much hope when it came to earning capacity.

Mindset:

  • Life felt very bleak. The culture of confinement obliterated hope and I didn’t want to be part of a continuing cycle of failure. I thought about strategies to change the outcome of my life.

Health:

  • I was 23 years old and in good physical health. To make it through the journey, I needed to work on my mental health.

There wasn’t any way for me to undo the bad decisions of my past. Yet by taking that personal inventory, I simultaneously took a first step toward building a more intentional future. I was absolutely responsible for the predicament I was in and I would be responsible for what I would become in the years ahead.

I projected into the future, thinking about how I could use resources around me in positive ways.

What would be the best possible outcome in ten years, by 1997? I knew that I’d still be in prison, but in what ways could I advance?

 

Inventory Resources: Point-B

If I defined success, I could chart a course that would lead to success.

During those first 10 years of confinement, I made a 100% commitment to work toward reconciling with society. My plan required me to work on three areas:

  1. Educating myself,
  2. Contributing to society in meaningful, measurable ways, and
  3. Building a strong support network.

By adhering to that strategy, I could create a worksheet. That worksheet allowed me to set priorities. Even though I was in prison, I could execute my plan and make progress every day. By 1997, when I finished serving my first decade in prison, I achieved goals that differentiated me in that environment:

  • I earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercer University
  • I earned a master’s degree from Hofstra University
  • I was a published author in peer-reviewed journals
  • I had a thriving support network

Life felt different from when I began serving my sentence. Even though I would have another 15 years to serve in prison, I had more confidence that I could master the journey ahead.

CREATE YOUR PLAN:

For reasons stated above, I’m confident your life will improve if you chart your course to success—as you define success.

  • Write an inventory of the resources you have today.
  • Then project into the future and figure out where you want to be.
  • Create your five-year plan.

Your investment worksheet shows you’ve taken inventory of your life today. It shows you know what you want to build in the years ahead.

As you advance through your five-year plan, your investment worksheet will guide your decisions. And as you grow, you’ll create new worksheets that take your improved circumstances into account.

Remember to adjust as circumstances change. You are the master of your guide, not vice versa.

 

Evolving Your Plan As Life Changes

In August of 2012, I transferred from federal prison to serve my final year in a halfway house. As a result of advancing through several five-year plans, my life differed from what others would expect for a man who had been in prison since 1987:

  • I was well educated,
  • I was a published author,
  • I created several ventures that generated income, and
  • I developed understanding and knowledge of business.

Although I’d been out of the workforce for all of my 20s, 30s, and 40s, I was in a stronger position than many people who did not serve decades in prison.

Investing in myself made all of the difference. The learning-how-to-invest worksheets I created played a huge role in helping me stay the course. New worksheets would take the changes in my life into account with a new Point-A and a new Point-B.

My wife drove me from the federal prison to the halfway house, where I would serve my final year. As she drove, I told her that I would use the same strategy that empowered me through prison. With that strategy, I intended to build my career and business. My priority would be to build prosperity.

Within five years of concluding my term, I pledged that I’d build a portfolio of assets worth more than $1 million. That Point-B goal may have seemed lofty for a man who served multiple decades in prison. With a worksheet, I felt confident I could chart the course ahead.

The initial Point-A worksheet I created looked something like what I’m recreating below:

Point A Worksheet Date: August 13, 2012

Name: Michael Santos

Worksheet: Financial Status

Assets:

  • Cash: $100,000
  • Debt: $0
  • Total Equity: $100,000

Monthly Income, August 13, 2012:

  • Investment Income: $0
  • Business Income: $0
  • Total Income: $0

 

Point-B Worksheet Date: August 13, 2017

 

  • Projected Assets (Combination of Real Estate and Cash): $1 million
  • Total Investment Debt: $700,000
    • Total Monthly Payment on Debt: $5,200
  • Total Equity: $300,000

Projected Monthly Income Goal, August 13, 2017

  • Real Estate Income: $4,000
  • Business Income: $5,000
    • Total Targeted Monthly Income: $9,000

By using that strategy of creating worksheets, I had a clear idea of how I wanted to grow in the months and years ahead. The worksheet helped me make better, more disciplined decisions.

Instead of listening to unsolicited advice that others offered about what I should do with my life, I relied upon my worksheet to guide investment decisions.

Worksheets kept me on a disciplined, deliberate path to succeed.

Use financial worksheets that align with your goals to build your success in methodical, measurable ways.

Obviously, as a person who was recently released from a long term in prison, my life circumstances differed from other people. We all must take our life circumstances into account, considering where we are on a given stage of the journey.

Worksheet for Millennials

The sooner you commit to investing, the better off you become. Young people have the power of compounding interest on their side. By investing early, and investing wisely, a young person can make exceptional progress. Compounding interest is one of the greatest wonders of the world.

Look at the following table to see how money grows over a 30-year period under the following assumptions:

  • Starting Amount: $10,000
  • Annual compounded interest: 15%

With compounding interest, the original capital will more than double every 5 years. Specifically, look at the money grows over time with compounding interest:

  • Year 1: $11,500
  • Year 2: $13,225
  • Year 3: $15,209
  • Year 4: $17,490
  • Year 5: $20,114

Take that concept of compounding interest further. Millennials starting with $10,000 can watch that money grow over time:

  • Year 10: $40,000+
  • Year 15: $80,000+
  • Year 20: $160,000+
  • Year 25: $320,000+
  • Year 30: $640,000+
  • Year 35: $1.28 million
  • Year 40: $2.56 million

Beware of Student-Loan Debt

Unfortunately, the pattern for many Millennials is to take on high amounts of debt. They use that debt to pay high tuition costs in school, or to buy consumer products. Those types of expenditures do not generate the same rate of return on investment.

Media reports show that student-loan debt now surpasses automobile debt and credit-card debt. Those heavy debt levels complicate a young person’s ability to take advantage of investments that benefit from compounding interest.

Too many people take on tens of thousands in debt without a clear understanding of what return that investment will yield.

Are their more economical ways for students to prepare for job market than taking so much student-loan debt?

According to CNBC, student-loan debt doesn’t necessarily pay off in happiness or higher wages. Forbes tells us that student loans are like an anchor that hold Millennials back. And job pay isn’t keeping up.

Rather than signing up for loans to pay for a college degree of questionable value, Millennials should consider other options. It may make sense for some to pursue self-education courses. With more time and less debt, they may invest in assets that will appreciate in value over time.

Before signing up for massive-amounts of student loan debt, Millennials may be wise to develop their “Learning-how-to-invest-worksheet.”

QUESTIONS FOR MILLENNIALS

 

  1. What is your monthly income today?
  2. What are your monthly expenses today?
  3. What portion of your monthly income goes toward paying down debt on assets that you expect to appreciate, like real estate?
  4. What portion of your monthly expenses go toward paying down debt on assets that are depreciating in value, like student loans, credit-card debt, and automobile loans?
  5. What is the total value of your investment-grade assets today?
  6. What is the total debt on your investment-grade assets today?
  7. What is the difference between the value of your investment-grade assets and the debt you owe on those assets today?
  8. What do you project your investment-grade assets will be worth in five years?
  9. How much will you owe on your investment-grade assets in five years?
  10. How much is your total net worth today?
  11. How much of your net worth have you invested in accounts that are exposed to the stock market?
  12. How much of your net worth do you have in liquid assets?
  13. What level of monthly income do you anticipate you will need during retirement?
  14. How will your retirement plans change if the stock market undergoes a correction?
  15. How much can you afford to invest each month right now to prepare for your retirement?
  16. Does your financial plan anticipate that you could live to be 110 years old?

We’re all the CEOs of our own life. We’re all responsible for the decisions we make along the journey. If we introspect and we ask good questions, we can personalize investment worksheets to guide us into the future we want.

This is how we become the change we want to see in the world. But we’re all different, and we must personalize our plan.

Completing a worksheet is the first step in the plan.

WORKSHEET FOR RETIREES:

If you’re on the other end of the earning spectrum—approaching retirement—create a worksheet that suits you. Your worksheet will give you a solid snapshot of your financial strength today.

  • How will your income change over time?
  • How will your financial needs change over time?

Unfortunately, we have many people in their 30, 40s, 50s, and 60s who have not thought much about retirement. They may have set aside money in a retirement account, but they did not do so intentionally. Instead, they allowed money managers or financial advisors to make decisions on their behalf.

Remember that money managers and financial advisors may have their own agenda! Their ability to influence people to participate in plans that they represent may influence their income.

I always chose a different route. Rather than waiting for others to prepare me for success, I took personal responsibility. I charted my own course by:

  • Defining the best possible outcome,
  • Putting plans in place to advance me from Point-A to Point-B.
  • Setting priorities, knowing that I would have to sow and nurture seeds along the way.

People who want to prepare for prosperity should do the same. Learn how to invest and use a personal worksheet that will guide your decisions. Think about the costs you will incur, and whether you have an investment strategy to pay those costs.

According to an article on the Personal Finance page of CNBC, retirement costs are soaring. Consider the following headline from October 20, 2018:

As we age, we know we want to enjoy life. We may want to be productive, but we don’t want to worry about earning a living.

There’s a huge difference between knowing that we don’t want to rely upon a paycheck, and not having to rely upon paycheck. Few people put plans in place to build independent prosperity. Far too many people are relying upon an unstable social-security system or government assistance.

Experience convinces me that people serve themselves better by learning how to invest. They should create investment worksheets that will strengthen their prospects for success.

QUESTIONS FOR RETIREES

If you’re from the baby boomer generation, you may consider th efollowing questions as you develop your financial worksheet:

  1. What is your monthly income today?
  2. What are your monthly expenses today?
  3. How much of your monthly expenses are paying down debt on assets that you expect will appreciate in value, like real estate?
  4. How much of your monthly expenses are paying down debt on assets that are depreciating in value, like student loans, credit-card debt, and automobile loans?
  5. What is the total value of your investment-grade assets today?
  6. What is the total debt on your investment-grade assets today?
  7. What is the difference between the value of your investment-grade assets and the debt you owe on those assets today?
  8. What do you project your investment-grade assets will be worth in five years?
  9. How much will you owe on your investment-grade assets in five years?
  10. How much is your total net worth today?
  11. How much of your net worth have you invested in accounts that are exposed to the stock market?
  12. How much of your net worth do you have in liquid assets?
  13. What level of monthly income do you anticipate you will need during retirement?
  14. How will your retirement plans change if the stock market undergoes a correction?
  15. How much can you afford to invest each month right now to prepare for your retirement?
  16. Does your financial plan anticipate that you could live to be 110 years old?

The questions above are only suggestions. They are the types of questions that I use to create an investment worksheet for my wife and me. At the start of 2018, I made a shift in my retirement planning for reasons that I’ll explain in the chapters ahead.

See Results of Worksheets

The questions above are only suggestions. They are the types of questions that I use to create an investment worksheet for my wife and me. At the start of 2018, I made a shift in my retirement planning for reasons that I’ll explain in the chapters ahead.

You can track my financial worksheets by visiting the following links:

As mentioned above, when I concluded my prison term, I set a goal of building a portfolio of assets worth $1 million within my first five years of liberty. Yet as a result of learning how to invest, and using investment worksheets, I surpassed that goal.

Below I provide a snapshot of my most recent investment portfolio:

Investments, September 30, 2018:

  • Total Assets (Real Estate and Cash): $7,661,083
  • Total Investment Debt: $5,488,049
    • Total Monthly Payment on Debt: $22,381
  • Total Equity: $2,173,034

Monthly Income, September 30, 2018:

  • Real Estate Income: $9,525
  • Business Income: $40,503
  • Total Income: $50,028

Goal Date: August, 2023

  • Projected Assets: $10 million
  • Total Investment Debt: $5 million
    • Total Monthly Payment on Debt: $20,000
  • Total Equity: $5 million

Targeted Monthly Income Goal, 2023:

  • Real Estate Income: $50,000
  • Business Income: $50,000
    • Total monthly income goal: $100,000

To achieve this goal of building $10,000,000 in assets, and $100,000 in monthly income, I must think strategically. I must assess my plans every day. I encourage you to do the same.

If you’ve created your worksheet, the next step will require you to engineer your path to prosperity with investments.

In the next chapter, we’ll discuss asset classes. I’ll reveal investment strategies for beginners, showing why I chose one asset class versus others to build my prosperity. By revealing my investment strategies, beginners may be able to more effectively create an investment strategy that will work for them.

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